PHOTO IN THE NEWS: Dino-Era Fish Head Found in Garden?

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July 29, 2008—It seems there might really be something fishy about the seaside stone pictured above, which until recently decorated an ornamental pond in southern England.

According to local experts, the rock's cod-like expression once belonged to a fish that swam in tropical seas about 80 million years ago.

Maidstone resident Peter Parvin found the odd stone on a British beach 15 years ago during a family vacation. The rock had been sitting in his garden until last week, when staff members at the local museum were alerted to its presence.

"There's no doubt it's a fossil," said Ed Jarzembowski, keeper of natural history at the Maidstone Museum. Jarzembowski, who was the first to examine the stone, said that the type of fish the fossil represents isn't yet known.

But dating the fish head was more straightforward, he said, because it is encased in flint. This type of hard, silica-rich rock is typically found within softer chalk sediments laid down during the Cretaceous period 145 to 65 million years ago, when warm, shallow seas covered the region. Radioactive traces in flint can provide scientists with an accurate age.

Flint fish fossils are extremely rare, said Jarzembowski, who added that he knows of only one other example from Britain. Experts hope that scans of the stone will reveal the ancient fish's internal structure.

—James Owen

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