SCIENCE
03/26/2013 08:52 am ET

Horseshoe Crab Fossil, 300 Million Years Old, Discovered By 10-Year-Old Bruno Debattista

Ever brought in something this good for show-and-tell? An unusual rock, which a 10-year-old student presented to his classmates, has turned out to be an incredibly rare, 320 million-year-old fossil of a horseshoe crab's footprints.

Bruno Debattista, who attends Windmill Primary School in Oxford, England, came across the piece of shale rock last summer while vacationing in Cornwall, and noticed the rock contained a strange, fossilized imprint.

Bruno thought it was something special, and brought it into an after-school club meeting at Oxford University’s Museum of Natural History.

fossil

"Footprints of this age are incredibly rare and extremely hard to spot," Chris Jarvis, the museum's education officer, said in a written statement, "so we were amazed when Bruno produced them at our after-school club.... Still more impressive is the fact that Bruno had a hunch they might be some kind of footprints, even though the specimen had some of our world expert geologists arguing about it over their microscopes."

Museum researchers eventually confirmed the footprints likely were a pair of mating horseshoe crabs during the Carboniferous period, around 308 to 327 million years ago. The oldest known horseshoe crab fossils, from the Late Ordovician period, are at least 455 million years old.

Bruno and his family have donated the fossil specimen to the museum’s collection.

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