Seagrass meadows have functioned as critical nurseries for tens of millions of years, providing food and protection for many organisms. This piece of ancient meadow includes specimens of bryozoans (moss animals), sea stars and brittle stars attached to blades of seagrass.
From time to time, we get lucky and find rocks that contain truly exceptional fossils. This rare specimen provides a snapshot of a seagrass community that thrived along Florida coasts more than 40 million years ago.
This rock contains fossils that are rarely preserved in the geological record: blades of seagrass, brittle stars and juvenile sea stars. In addition, some seagrass blades are covered by colonial moss animals. This amazing fossil find comes from the middle Eocene Avon Park Formation, which is the oldest geological unit in Florida exposed on the surface.
Very much like modern seagrass beds, this fossil seagrass meadow sustained diverse organisms that used seagrass as a food source, for shelter and protection, or as a substrate for growth. Over 70 species of plants and animals have been found in these fossilized seagrass beds. Today, seagrass meadows represent a major biodiversity hotspot and one of the most valuable coastal ecosystems of Florida. This fossil specimen tells us that seagrass meadows have been around Florida for a very long time. And like today, they sustained and sheltered diverse animals.
Curator, Invertebrate Paleontology
Florida Museum of Natural History
Fossil Seagrass (Thalassodendron auricula–leporis)
From Levy Co., Florida
Lived ~47-41 million years ago (middle Eocene)
Ancient Sea Life