Typically, when Outsiders think of fossils, we assume someone must have gently and persistently dug in the dirt, rocks, sand, or other surrounding natural materials to uncover these ancient discoveries. However, in a case quite the opposite, one hiker discovered an ancient sea fossil atop a mountain recently. Interestingly, the hiker’s discovery came at elevations reaching 8,300 feet.
Newsweek reports that the hiker and TikTok user shared the now-viral clip late last week on November 12th. Since its initial posting, the video has claimed an impressive three million views. The tiny fossil, its true size revealed as the TikToker zooms out and pans away from his discovery, resides on the side of a rock atop the mountain.
After posting, followers drew several conclusions. Many highlighted that the diminutive creature very much resembles an alien. Meanwhile, others claim it to be proof of the Great Flood detailed in the biblical story of Noah’s Ark.
Fortunately for us, paleontologists have provided us solid answers. These not only highlight what the creature is. They also explained how the creature happened to occupy a space at 8,300 feet above sea level.
Identified as a crinoid, scientists state the fossil likely originated during the Paleozoic era. As such, the creature’s age ranges between 250 and 500 million years old. According to the news outlet, crinoids belong to the marine creature group called echinoderms. This species encapsulates starfish, sea urchins, and sand dollars.
Natural History Museum curator Tim Ewen said, “What the gentleman has found is actually…known as a sea lily.”
He added that the creature previously would have possessed a stem that kept it attached to the seafloor. It, therefore, raised its body and arms to a higher position. In this way, its sprawled limbs better enabled it to collect food, its mouth found on top of its body.
How Did a Sea Fossil Make Its Way Up a Mountain?
Science-minded individuals, rather than attributing the fossil’s location to an ancient flood, state the creature came to be atop the mountain due to hundreds of millions of years of mountain building, i.e. tectonic shifts.
Paleontologist Dr. Katie Strang said, “When we find these fossils it tells us that these rocks were laid down in marine conditions, i.e. under the sea.” She continued, “The reason they’re now up a mountain is due to plate tectonic processes like mountain building.”
As we are most familiar with, California‘s iconic San Andreas fault holds proof of tectonic activity. It marks the spot where two of Earth’s tectonic plates meet. Should they eventually collide, it would likely cause a major earthquake, an event that actually took place in 1906, resulting in incredible damage.
However, in relation to our case here, their potential collision signifies proof of mountain building, the case for why our ancient sea fossil wound up thousands of feet above sea levels.
For further context, Dr. Jo Hellawell, executive officer for The Paleontological Association, stated, “Rocks with marine fossils in [them] are found in many mountain ranges due to the movements of the Earth: tectonic plate movements push up mountain ranges and can uplift rocks that were once deep within the crust.”