The Ammonites of Peacehaven

These giant Cretaceous ammonites are located on the south coast of England, near a small town called Peacehaven, in East Sussex. See google maps for location. The ammonites, embedded in chalk, are known as Parapuzosia seppenradensis, and their size is approximately 50 to 100 cm in diameter, making them among the largest in the world. Ammonites are a reliable indicator of the age of chalk layers. The chalk at Peacehaven, depending on the layer, is dated at between 83.5 to 78 million years old. Global sea levels at this time were 200 metres higher than today. The ammonites at Peacehaven are found on the Old Nore Beds and belong to the Newhaven Chalk formation, dated at 83.5 million years old.

Peacehaven Ammonite

You can see these ammonites when low tide exposes them.
Female ammonites were far larger than males. I have counted at least 25 giant ammonites at Peacehaven (and nowhere else on the Sussex coast, unless they are yet to be exposed from the chalk). This has led me to ask, why so many in one place? Scientific consensus places ammonites close to modern squid. Some modern squid reproduce just once, and then die shortly afterwards. Was there a mass spawning and death of giant female ammonites at this location 83.5 million years ago? This may explain why there are so many of these fossilized creatures so densely concentrated on the Old Nore Beds.

ammonite

Giant ammonite embedded into the chalk intertidal zone. All of the ammonites at Peacehaven had their normal dimensions upon exposure from the chalk. The ammonites did not get crushed, following death, because layers of sediments quickly covered them, and hardened, protecting their shells.

ammonite 3

Ammonite in remarkably good condition, given the environmental forces acting upon it.

ammonite 2

This ammonite bears the scars of pebbles and boulders thrown at it by the sea.

ammonite 4

giant ammonite

Another hulking specimen, nearly one metre across. Along with the other ammonites at Peacehaven, the shell of this individual is gone, revealing complex sutures.

peacehaven ammonite

Ammonite on the Peacehaven foreshore, taken at sunset.

peacehaven ammonite 2

More photographs of Peacehaven ammonites here.

Lovely, illustrated student paper on ammonites.

Read more about Peacehaven fossils at Discovering Fossils.

Download Number 12 bus timetable (.pdf)

Technical details: Canon EOS 3 with a b
ooster pack, Fuji Velvia 50 II, Fuji Velvia 100, Canon 17 - 40 mm L, Sigma 28 - 70 mm EX, Manfrotto 055 PROB tripod. Locations: Friars Bay, Peacehaven, East Sussex, United Kingdom.

If you would like to purchase any of these photographs, or request samples of other work, please email me to discuss prices and formats.

2 Comments - Post a comment:

Astromarket said...

I've come to this site to relax after a stressful match Poland-Austria.
I feel much better now :-)

Alan Mackenzie said...

Hi Wojtek,

I'm sorry you had to sit through a 1 - 1 draw with Austria, especially the stoppage time penalty, when Poland looked like picking up a much-needed 3 points, but at least Poland are in Euro 2008!

Why not visit Friars Bay, and see the ammonites for yourself. Catch the number 12 bus at Churchill Square, buy a one day Saver ticket, and walk down the 180-odd steps near the cafe and caravan site to the foreshore. The map directions are on my site. Make sure you consult the tidal predictions. I use Newhaven as a guide.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/coast/tides/southeast.shtml