Fossil Likely 300 Million Years Old Found by Litter-Picking Paddleboarders

A pair of paddleboarders discovered a fossilized coral that is thought to be more than 300 million years old during a river clean-up expedition.

Charlotte Megret and Neil Smith, two outdoor environmental educators known as the "Rubbish Paddlers," were paddleboarding down the River Ayr in Scotland when they made the surprising find last weekend.

Through the country's coronavirus lockdown, the pair had begun conducting "rubbish paddles" to collect trash in rivers, lochs or coasts and up-cycle, recycle or dispose of any waste.

Smith, who is a geologist, told the Cumnock Chronicle on Thursday: "It was a nice fossil to find in the river Ayr at the weekend."

The Rubbish Paddlers said on Facebook it was "amazing" to know that what is now Scotland used to be located near the equator with tropical beaches and "beautiful corals like this one."

"The fossil was found in Mauchline Gorge on the river Ayr," Smith told Newsweek. "It was a bit shallow and rocky so we were walking the paddleboards and rubbish down the river and I slipped on the rock with the fossils in it. I studied geology so recognized it as a limestone with coral fossils in it."

"It looked like an extinct solitary or horned coral of the Carboniferous Period—over 300 million years old. It is not rare or unusual in Scotland but nevertheless a nice find, and great for piecing together Scotland's amazing geological history. I have seen similar fossils at Trearne Quarry in North Ayrshire, and in the university lab a while ago," he said.

The sandstones of the Mauchline gorge are much younger than the fossil and show evidence of a desert climate, Smith said, indicating that it must have come from farther upstream.

The coral discovery is not the only ancient find discovered by members of the public recently. Earlier this month, Florida scuba divers Derek Demeter and Henry Sadler found a four-foot-long, 50-pound mammoth femur nestled in the sand at the bottom of the Peace River in the southwest of the state.

The divers describe find as a "once-in-a-lifetime" discovery in an interview with The Orlando Sentinel.

Demeter, the director of Seminole State College's Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust Planetarium, said: "When you uncover this fossil and realize there were these giant, elephant-like creatures roaming around what was probably once a grassland in Florida, it gives you a sense of wonder for what it was like back in ancient times. It's kind of like our way of time traveling. It makes your imagination go wild."

A coral fossil found in Scotland
The fossil found in the River Ayr in Scotland that is thought to be more than 300 million years old. Rubbish Paddlers