Tethys Ocean Fossil - 4.38" Ammonite Shell
Tethys Ocean Fossil - 4.38" Ammonite Shell
The Tethys Ocean was an ancient sea that emerged out of Pangea in the Triassic period. For millions of years, it was filled with aquatic animals like ammonites, plesiosaurs, and ichthyosaurs. As tectonic plates crashed against each other though, the bedrock of the ocean was lifted thousands of feet above sea level. This brought about the end of the Tethys and created many mountain ranges within Eurasia.
This specimen is a 4.38" fossil ammonite shell from the Tethys Ocean. It was recovered from the banks of the Gandaki River in the Himalayas, where the remains of the sea have become mountains and ocean fossils can be found among the peaks.
📸 A Tethys Shaligram in Hand
A Prehistoric Natural Pattern
We often think of fossils as coming from deep below the Earth, but these specimens are a peculiar exception. The Tethys Ocean was a massive Mesozoic seaway that held species of ammonites, belemnites, plesiosaurs, and ichthyosaurs within it. Millions of years ago though, a slow tectonic collision began.
Nothing much changed at first, but over time the sea floor rose higher and higher as the two tectonic plates pushed each other upward. This uplift resulted in one of the largest mountain-making events in history — the Alps, the Carpathians, and even the Himalayas all come from what was once the Tethys sea. Today, we find ocean fossils among those peaks, an incredible reminder of our planets shifting surface.
📸 Each fossil is completely unique!
This specimen is a Tethys Ocean fossil recovered from the Himalayas along the banks of the Gandaki River. These fossils are beautifully perserved nautaloids that date back over 50,000,000 years. The fossils are imprinted on a dark shale, which was the material of the prehistoric seafloor itself.
Each Tethys Ocean fossil is shipped in a sturdy packing container along with an informational photo card which serves as a certificate of authenticity.
Each fossil is a one of a kind item and there are many interesting and unique shapes and sizes. Some are in matrix, others are split concretions, and there are even a few with metallic inclusions. As such, we've listed each Tethys fossil seperately. You can see all available fossils in the collection below. You can also find sections of the ancient sea floor available as well.
INITIAL FORMATION: TRIASSIC PERIOD (C. 250,000,00 YEARS AGO)
MORE ABOUT THE TETHYS OCEAN
The Birth of an Ocean
It’s easy to see the geography of our planet as fixed and immutable, our continents and oceans unchanging. This is hardly the case on the geologic scale. Earth's landmasses and seas are not static, they’re an ever changing tapestry propelled by massive tectonic plates shifting below our feet.
250 million years ago in the Mesozoic era, the continental plates were joined together like puzzle pieces to form the Pangea supercontinent — but Pangea was changing. From within, the mighty Tethys Ocean was being born.
Named for a sea goddess from Greek mythology, the Tethys Ocean took many forms over the eons, expanding and contracting as the continents shifted around it. At the beginning of the Mesozoic Era, the Tethys Ocean was bound by the great Panthalassan Ocean within the cradle of the supercontinent Pangaea. During the Jurassic Period, the shifting continents compressed the Tethys to form an equatorial seaway stretching from today's Caribbean Islands to what is now the Himalayas.
📸 The Tethys Ocean on Late Jurassic Earth (From Encyclopaedia Britannica)
This Jurassic seaway split the land and allowed the continents to take the shapes we know today. The Tethys formed a barrier between the diverging Americas, Eurasia and Africa. While reduced in size, The Tethys continued to have an enormous impact on its surrounding environment, acting as a kind of oceanic superhighway and carrying floral and faunal species across the world.
With the disaster of the Triassic-Jurassic extinction event, many species of animals went extinct, with marine life particularly devastated, owing to ocean acidification. Ironically, this cataclysm made the Tethys the perfect breeding ground for life: it had a new environment makeup, a new chemical balance and plenty of uninhabited room, making it an ideal spot for new species to evolve and replace the old.
Thanks to tropical conditions, life flourished. At the height of the Tethys, you could find small creatures like plankton and sea snails, a sudden burst of new ammonites, and the even marine reptiles like ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs hunting for prey.
📸 A belemnite fossil encased in Tethys ocean material
Raising the Seas
Paradoxically, this abundance of life (plankton specifically) created dangerously low oxygen levels, and parts of the Tethys became stagnant and muddy. Lucky for us, these were the perfect conditions for dying animals to be preserved as fossils.
The end of the Tethys came in stages with the collisions of the African, Arabian, and Indian tectonic plates with Eurasia, which mainly commenced in the Paleocene and Eocene. This convergence initiated the planet’s mightiest modern mountain-building episodes: the Alpine (or Alpide) orogeny, which has thrown up mountain ranges from Western Europe to Southeast Asia, including such uplifts as the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Caucasus, the Zagros, the Hindu Kush, the Karakorum, and the Himalayas.
The ocean floor which was once the Tethys rose high into the air, becoming material for the incredible mountain ranges across Eurasia. As a side effect of this uplift event, the ocean fossils that had been buried for millions of years now found themselves at some of the highest peaks in the world. Today, ammonites, belemnites, and even ichthyosaur fossils can be found buried in the side of mountains.
📸 A Beautiful Tethys ammonite in hand
Spirals from the Mountains
This specimen is one of those fossils. Scientifically, we know them as ammonites and belemnites, nautaloids with beautiful shells perfect for fossilization. The dark stone is indicative of the minerals around the ocean floor and there are even some metallic inclusions which gives some fossils a brassy shine.
For thousands of years, the logarithmic spirals in these fossils communicated deep spiritual meanings to those that found them. Called shaligram or saligram, the shapes represented the unceasing cycle of birth and death found in Hindu, Buddhic, and Jain belief systems. Perhaps those that found these fossils had some notion of the cyclical nature of the ever-changing continents and oceans, their constant shifting that continues to this very day.
Front of the Specimen Card
Back of the Specimen Card
Stow, D. A. Vanished Ocean : How Tethys Reshaped the World. Oxford University Press, 2010.
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(2) Ocean: The Definitive Visual Guide. DK Publishing, 2014.
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(5) Stow, Dorrik. Vanished Ocean: How Tethys Reshaped the World. Oxford University Press, 2010.
(6) Keppie, D. Fraser. “How the Closure of Paleo-Tethys & Tethys Oceans Controlled the Early Breakup of Pangaea.” Geology, vol. 43, no. 4, 2015, pp. 335-338.
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(9) Luyendyk, Bruce P. “Paleoceanography.” Britannica, 2019. Web. 14 July 2019.
(10) Celâl Şengör, A.M. & Saniye Atayman. The Permian Extinction & the Tethys: An Exercise in Global Geology. The Geological Society of America, 2009.
(11) Aktor, Mikael. “Grasping the Formless in Stones: The Petromorphic Gods of the Hindu Pañcāyatanapūjā.” In Aesthetic of Religion: A Connective Concept, edited by Alexandra K. Grieser & Jay Johnston, De Gruyter, 2017, pp. 59-73.