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Fossil sites ignite passion of a palaeontologist in France

 

The Wild and beautiful coast line of Ault in Picardy

Géry Janczik is a History and Geography teacher near Amiens but also a passionate palaeontologist.  Géry is never happier than when he is searching for fossils in France and is particularly fond of the coastline around Picardy.

As a child Géry was fascinated by a fossil fern his father gave him but he really became enthusiastic after a holiday in Ardèche in the Rhône-Alpes region five years ago when he found his own fossils while just walking along. This began an enduring fascination with the subject of palaeontology and Géry read and researched the subject and began to actively look for sites to collect fossils. He has made some amazing finds over the years in his search for fossil samples and his photos of some his discoveries are simply amazing. The finds he writes about here were all from the coast line around Ault.

Ault is located between the Alabaster Coast and the Opal Coast, north of Vallée Bresle and south of the Somme (UNESCO World Heritage – most beautiful natural bay in the world). It is an ancient seaside town with cliffs overlooking the sea and a magnificent panorama with its long sandy beach at low tide. A town of seaside heritage, maritime history, art and culture in an authentic and preserved environment just 16km north of St Valery-sur-Somme.

In the footsteps of the first forms of life, searching for fossils on the Picardy coast by an amateur palaeontologist:

Palaeontology (the study of different types of fossils left by the species that lived on Earth) is a hobby and a real passion for me. It allows me to discover the original sites to try to find new fossil specimens, maintain my collection and my personal research, as well as exchanges with other French and international fans. It’s always great excitement when I find a fossil.

Echinocorys specimen G Janczik
Echinocorys specimen

Along the southern coast of Picardy, we can find examples dating from the Cretaceous period which extends from -145.5 ± 4 to -65.5 ± 0.3 million years. The name Cretaceous comes from the Latin “creta” which means “chalk”, the name given by Omalius d’Halloy – a French geologist. The geology of the southern coast of Picardy extends beyond the coast of Upper Normandy has a monumental line of chalk cliffs.

Chalk results from the sedimentation of debris and micrometric, and fossils form from larger debris: foraminifera, calcispheres, bryozoans, brachiopods, bivalves in particular prisms of inoceramids, sea urchins, crinoids, starfish, sponges, shark teeth, etc. Sometimes these organisms come from an age when dinosaurs existed or from an area that confirms a very explicit form of life.

Spondylus spinosus bivalve G Janczik
Spondylus spinosus bivalve

Sometimes it is necessary to comply with the authorities and have a licence to search for fossils – you must check at the tourist office. The best places to look are usually on the reef – ten to twenty metres out from the cliffs – this is where I find the best and most prolific fossil evidence.

Sea urchin fossil Conulus specimen G Janczik
Sea urchin fossil Conulus specimen

 

There are signs that show that the climate in which the chalk was formed was tropical and the temperature of surface water was at least 20°C (in northern France!). The climate of this Cretaceous period is sometimes called “greenhouse”. Reefs, wetlands and even dinosaurs could reach or exceed latitudes above 60°.

Fossilised traces of sponges in chalk G Janczik
Fossilised traces of sponges in chalk

My research into fossils also allows me to breathe the bracing air of the sea and see the wildlife of this area of wild coastline in Picardy – what could be better?!

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