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No. 106: Jul-Aug 1996

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Mud Springs Regurgitate Ancient Fossils

Mud springs in Wiltshire, England, may be the only ones of their kind on the planet. The Wiltshire mud springs are cold. They are not hot and steaming like those seen where geothermal heat is close to the surface, as in New Zealand, Java, and Yellowstone. They are also unique in their entrainment of subterranean fossils and bringing them to the surface.

"There is no explanation of the way the springs ooze a pale, cold, grey mud to the surface, forming blisters that spurt high into the air.

"Neville Hollingworth of the Natural Environment Research Council said: 'They are like a fossil conveyor belt bringing up finds from the clay layers below and then washing them out in a nearby stream.'"

The fossil conveyor belt yields bones of marine reptiles, oyster shells, and the remains of sea creatures that lived during the Jurassic, about 165 million years ago. Some of the bivalves still retain their organic ligaments.

Geologists wonder what forces squeeze the mud to the surface like toothpaste from a tube.

(Nuttall, Nick; "Mud Springs a Surprise after 165 Million Years," London Times, May 2, 1996. Cr. A.C.A. Silk)

From Science Frontiers #106, JUL-AUG 1996. � 1996-2000 William R. Corliss