A treasure trove of Jurassic-era fossils has been discovered in Sonajori Matiya Hills of Jharkhand’s Pakur district.
Geologist Ranjit Singh and Pakur forest officer Rajnish Kumar have claimed to be the first to discover the rare petrified plant fossils in the Hills in January. They also discovered other ideal fossils like Belemnite, Trilobite and Ptillophylum around February end.
Experts said fossils are useful in determination of ages of rocks in a particular area. Besides, they are indicators of existing environment, climate, temperature and evolution of life in a particular period of time.
So far, Jharkhand’s Sahebganj district has been famous for rich fossils. They are found are in abundance in Rajmahal hills, which run north-south for 193 km from Sahebganj in Jharkhand to Rampur Haat in West Bengal. The area is famous for Jurassic-era plant and animal fossils, the first fossils being discovered around 1850.
Renowned Indian Palaeobotanist (who studies fossil plants) Prof. Birbal Sahani is considered to have begun the investigation of anatomical features of Rajmahal around 1921 and continued for several years. Dr Sahani had discovered new and unique groups of plant fossils like Pentoxylene and Gymnosperms.
Singh, assistant professor at department of Geology, Sahebganj College, said, “Fossil presence is reported at Pakur’s Amrapara and Amjola area. But, their presence in Sonajori hills was discovered for the first time.”
Situated around 350kms from Jharkhand capital Ranchi, the Sonajori Matya Hills is immensely rich like that of Rajmahal hills in terms of fossil presence.
“However, there is a partial difference between the fossils Sonajori and Rajmahal. Petrified fossils of the Rajmahal hills are part of the teak wood, whereas fossils of Sonajori Matya is made of large trees like Dadocylon of Chotanagpur hills,” Singh said.
The fossils found at Sonajori hills are of the Jurassic period that is after 70-150 millions of years of the Reptilian period. “A comprehensive study of the hills is required as several fossils are to be identified,” he said.
The fossils in Jharkhand are under threat of extinction due to growing stone quarrying units and growing construction work. “Fossils of Amjola have almost vanished with several constructions there,” Singh said.
Similarly, stone crushing units on Rajmahal hills are also providing to be major threat to fossils.
Former deputy director of state archeology department Harendra Prasad Sinha, said, “Stone crushing units units area major challenge as they are using relics to create stone chips in road construction.”
However, Jharkhand government has initiated steps to protect the fossil sites. District forest officer (DFO), Sahebganj, Manish Tiwary said, “We have drafted a detailed project report (DPR) to preserve the fossils in Sahebganj and Pakur. The DPR was submitted to the government last week,” he said.