Ancient animals up on the roof...

First published in Comment

THIS is the final instalment on wildlife in the home, and on this journey upwards there is only one place left – the roof.

The loft space is home to much the same array of wildlife as discussed in last week’s look at what is inside the walls, so the area of the roof we will look at is the roof tiles and slates themselves.

If your roof is slate there could be some very old animals indeed up there.

Wales was the home of the British slate industry, and Welsh slate was formed 400 million years ago by a collision between land masses that compressed mud on the ocean floor, forming the rock known as slate.

The seabed was then thrust upwards creating the Welsh hills where slate was quarried.

This story was unravelled by researchers at Leicester University in 2003, who studied the fossil remains of marine creatures known as graptolites.

These tiny planktonic organisms are preserved forever within minerals in the slate and the fossilisation process allowed mica crystals to form in the spaces between the graptolites.

Chemical analysis of the crystals was then able to date the formation of the slate to 396.1 million years.

All very clever stuff – which I will not pretend to understand – and all the more remarkable because slate is not a rock known for fossils.

The pressures created by the land masses colliding usually obliterated any plant or animal remains, making fossil finds in slates very desirable to collectors.

Time, it would seem, to get the ladders out and take a look.

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