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You are in: Devon > History > History features > Fossils: Evidence of our ancient history

Beer, where fossils can be found in the chalk

Fossil sea-urchins are in cliffs at Beer

Fossils: Evidence of our ancient history

Devon's history dates back hundreds of millions of years, and fossils unearthed in the county provide us with evidence of the early days.

Fossils unearthed across Devon provide evidence of what the county was like hundreds of millions of years ago.

The county lends its name to the Devonian Period of geological time, 417-354 million years ago, and you can find fossils in parts of Devon dating back to this era.

Fossil corals and brachiopods from contemporary reefs can be found in limestones in south and east Devon.

In fact, the Torquay area has been dubbed 'The Coral Coast' because of the remnants of corals within the 400 million-year-old limestone.

The cliffs in Torquay where fossils can be found

Fossils are visible in Torquay

The corals were formed when the seas were relatively shallow. The best place to see them is on the foreshore at Hope's Nose when the tide is low.

In East Devon, you can find superb fossils of marine bivalves and snails preserved in silica.

There are also sandy limestones which are rich in marine fossils such as sea-urchins, ammonites and bivalves.

Chalk areas - especially at the cliffs around Beer - carry well preserved fossil sea-urchins.

Further south in the county is the Bovey Basin near Bovey Tracey, where dating of plant fossils indicate the materials in this area are about 30 million years old. The brown coal beds of the Basin are home to a wide range of fossil flora - 33 species of tree and vegetation have been spotted.

Kents Cavern, Torquay

Kents Cavern, Torquay

The flora includes redwood conifers, swamp-palm and cinnamon - indicating that the climate at the time was sub-tropical and the area must have been lush jungle.

In much more modern times, during the past 10,000 years, Devon's rivers and estuaries were drowned by the sea. Fossil remains of forests which were also drowned can be seen at low tides - examples are in Tor Bay and at Westward Ho!

Also in Torbay, there are animal fossils at Kents Cavern dating back hundreds of thousands of years.

All these remnants help to paint a picture of what Devon must have been like in the distant past, and informs us of the animals and flora which could once be found in the county.

last updated: 22/02/2008 at 10:50
created: 26/10/2005

You are in: Devon > History > History features > Fossils: Evidence of our ancient history

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