MISSOULA – University of Montana geosciences Professor George Stanley recently was part of an international team of scientists brought to south China to study some amazingly well-preserved fossil deposits.
Stanley joined 14 other foreign experts in China in early August to study and tour fossil excavation sites located in geologic landscapes that are being proposed for a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site and World Geopark status. The five-day field workshop was aimed at putting these fossil Geoparks on the international map. The workshop brought together over 50 researchers from China, Thailand, Japan, Italy, Germany, Israel and the U.S.
The fossil sites examined during the workshop were discovered in the Guizhou and Yunnan provinces. The unusual fossils contained in these deposits included swimming marine reptiles called ichthyosaurs along with turtles and other marine reptiles, as well as a diversity of fish, marine invertebrates and plant species. These life forms all lived together more than 210 million years ago and most were found in lifelike
conditions. Because of their unique preservation and fine details, the fossils offer unprecedented insight into ecosystem diversity and evolutionary history of China’s extinct marine life. The excursions to these sites were organized by Beijing University and funded by the Chinese government.
Stanley, along with the other international specialists, also met with government officials in Xingyi City to offer personal insights into the global scientific importance of these geological “hot spots” of scientific research.