Morocco/ Mind-blowing discovery dating back 515 million years: three-dimensional shape of trilobite fossils


An international team composed of Moroccan researchers from the Cadi Ayyad University (UCA) in Marrakech and foreign researchers has succeeded, for the first time, in describing with extreme precision the three-dimensional shape of trilobite fossils, buried in volcanic ash during the Cambrian period (515 million years ago).

The study conducted by this international team composed of lecturer-researcher Abdelfattah Azizi, doctoral student Asmaa El Bakouch from the Faculty of Science and Technology of the UCA, lecturer-researcher El Hafid Bouougri from the Faculty of Science Semlalia of the same university, lecturer-researcher Abderrazak El Albani and doctoral student Ibtissam Chriki from the University of Poitiers in France, as well as several foreign researchers, led to the discovery in Morocco of two new species of trilobites in an exceptional state of conservation.

These organisms were discovered in the Moroccan High Atlas Mountains, more precisely in the region of Aït Ayoub, in the province of Taroudant, the results of the “Three-dimensional study of trilobite fossils buried in volcanic ash during the Cambrian” were published in the famous journal “Science”.

The geochemical study of the rocks characterizing the site has allowed us to understand the conditions of fossilization of living organisms that lived in a marine environment and has revealed that they were suddenly submerged by volcanic ash resulting from the volcanic activity of the region at that time.

The conditions of formation of these fossils somewhat resemble the model of the volcano in the city of Pompeii.

These conditions helped slow down the decomposition of the soft parts and preserve the smallest morphological details of the trilobites’ legs and digestive system.

These details were determined by studying the three-dimensional structure of the samples taken using an X-ray microtomography device, an operation supervised by teacher-researcher Abderrazak El Albani at the University of Poitiers in France.

This study is a continuation of research work begun in 2017 on the same site, carried out by a team of researchers from UCA and the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, led by Professor Abdelfattah Azizi of the Faculty of Science and Technology.

The discovery site and its preliminary results were published in 2017 in the journal Scientific Reports.

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