The little village
of Cowie, just north of Stonehaven, may seem like the kind of quiet place where
nothing dramatic has ever occurred, but the rocks sitting at the harbour in Cowie
hid a quite remarkable secret.
For 12 years Kemnay
resident, Aberdeen bus driver and amateur palaeontologist, Mike Newman, had been
chiselling away at rocks in the Stonehaven area more in hope than expectation
until, in 2003, he discovered something which was to change our conceptions about
the evolution of life on this planet.
A millipede less than a centimetre
long may not sound like the most dramatic discovery ever made, but when it is
a fossil over 420 million years old then it becomes a different matter altogether.
|Sculptures in Cowie|
remarkable animal is 20 million years older than any other air breathing creature
found, and as such has forced scientists into a radical rethink of when the great
migration of life from the seas to the land began.
The fossil was sent
to the National Museum of Scotland to be studied, and they called in experts from
the Department of Geology and Geophysics at Yale University, who confirmed that
it is the earliest form of life on dry land found. The millipede was then named
Pneumodesmus (air breathing) Newmani, after its discoverer.
At the time
that Pneumodesmus Newmani was scuttling about Cowie, it was part of the continent
of Laurentia, and was crawling through a tropical, southern hemisphere paradise
- rather different in climate to Stonehaven today.