Biology instructor discovers rare fossil

January 19, 2012

Writer: Writer: Jessica McIntyre

Brigham Young University-Idaho biology instructor Dave Stricklan has discovered a previously unknown fossil fish species. The specimen, Bourbonnella jocelynae, was found near Lehi, Utah, 10 years ago, but was just certified last month.

Stricklan found the specimen, which barely measures 3 centimeters, in the Manning Canyon Shale Formation. This is a noteworthy discovery because this is the first fish fossil to be found in the area.

“This area is famous for plants, but virtually no fish have been found, until now. It has been an exciting process because it indicates that the area may have been marine, something not thought of before,” said Stricklan. “It gives me more than just another story to share in class, but puts me in contact with people on the cutting edge of science.”  

This fossil was recently described in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, noting that this discovery has opened a deeper investigation into a marine connection between North America and Europe 325 million years ago. The specimen is the earliest known representative of its kind from North America.

Bourbonnella jocelynae is named in memory of his daughter Jocelyn. Stricklan also found a new species of fossil insect named Brodioptera stricklani from the same sediments in 1984.