Deadly Cyclone Unearths Fossils From 80 million Years Ago

A deadly cyclone in New Zealand has unearthed fossils of giant marine creatures that lived millions of years ago.

The New Zealand-based Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust took to Facebook to share how the cyclone unearthed the fossils.

Photo: Pixabay/WikiImages

They explained, “When Storm Gabrielle brought devastation to Hawke’s Bay in February, streams and rivers deep in the forests of the region’s mountainous hinterland became raging torrents. The pressure of millions of cubic metres of rainwater sluicing through the narrow valleys scoured riverbeds and overturned rocks the size of shopping-trolleys.”

“The process has revealed an untold number of previously undiscovered fossils, links to our ancient past that might otherwise have remained hidden for eternity,” they added.

Photo: Flickr/itravelNZ® – New Zealand in your pocket™ License: CC BY 2.0

Staff and volunteers with the trust discovered many “new” fossils in late March, thanks to Storm Gabrielle. They were working to assess storm damage at a property in the Maungataniwha Native Forest in northern Hawkes Bay when they stumbled upon the incredible fossils.

They are contained within rocks in the disturbed bed of the Mangahouanga Stream and had lain covered since renowned New Zealand palaeontologist Joan Wiffen and her team discovered New Zealand’s first dinosaur fossils there in 1975.

The trust’s forest manager, Pete Shaw, said: “It’s like a giant has walked down the stream-bed, kicking at rocks and boulders as if they were pebbles and turning everything over as he goes.”

FOSSIL ALERT!When Storm Gabrielle brought devastation to Hawke’s Bay in February, streams and rivers deep in the…

Posted by Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust on Thursday, June 15, 2023

The Facebook post continued, saying: “For decades, palaeontologists, geologists, fossil fossickers and trampers have traversed the Mangahouanga Valley, frequently finding something of interest or significance. But never on the scale experienced on this single outing.”

Shaw, along with experts at GNS Science in Wellington, are currently working to identify the fossils.

Per the Facebook post, two fossil vertebrates have been tentatively identified as belonging to the elasmosaurus, a prehistoric marine creature that grew up to 14 meters long (around 45 feet).

Photo: Pixabay/OpenClipart-Vectors

“Other vertebrae discovered on the day could potentially have come from a mosasaur or a large fish, larger than anything found by the team to date,” the trust explained.

According to NASA, Cyclone Gabrielle devastated parts of New Zealand with strong winds and heavy rain in mid-February 2023. Due to the cyclone, officials declared a national state of emergency for only the third time in the country’s history.

RNZ reports that 11 people died from the cyclone.

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