Museum researchers publish groundbreaking discovery of oldest fossil in PH

Published July 22, 2020, 6:51 PM

by Hanah Tabios

The groundbreaking discovery of the oldest fossil record of Nautilus in the Philippines has been published by the museum researchers from the Geology and Paleontology Division of the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) and the Nannoworks Laboratory of the National Institute of Geological Sciences of the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

Photo from National Museum of the Philippines

Nautilus species belongs to the family of octopi, squid, and cuttlefish, which has been present on the planet for 500 million years.

The new historical development is now available online at the Philippine Journal of Science September 2020 issue, which scientifically narrates how the team of Filipino researchers led the finding of two nautilid (Cephaloda, Mollusca) fossils from an exposure of the late Miocene – early Pliocene Calatagan Formation – in Talim Point, Lian town, Batangas.     

In the published paper, the researchers said the Batangas fossils is also, so far, the only late Miocene to the early Pliocene record of Nautilus in the world.

The team discovered the two Nautilus specimens during their geologic fieldwork in September 2012 and December 2018, in a condition described as poorly to moderately preserved casts embedded in sandstone at the said site.

“Planktonic foraminifera analysis of the sandstone matrix was used to determine the age of the formation. Other fossils observed in the outcrop include mollusks, echinoids, and corals,” it said.

The researchers also emphasized that the new discovery of Nautilus specimens from the Neogene deposits in Batangas is important in understanding the evolutionary history of the genus. It was previously believed, based on experts’ account, that nautilids do not have any fossil record during the Pliocene and Pleisrocene.

Prior to this, the only records of chambered Nautilus fossils in the country were from the early Pleistocene siltstone outcrop in Tambac Island in Pangasinan province and from the Holocene uplifted sediment in the province of Leyte.

However, according to conservation organization Save the Nautilus, the changing demands of people has now endangered the said species amid what it called a “horrible massacre” to make Nautilus jewelry, which is often marketed as mother of pearl.