Cairn marks famous fossil find

(L to R) Amanda Stewart, Nan Lawless, Dr Neil Clark,  Andrew Kent, Neil Buchanan, Stephen Cowan, Debbie Macrae, Provost Una Walker.

(L to R) Amanda Stewart, Nan Lawless, Dr Neil Clark, Andrew Kent, Neil Buchanan, Stephen Cowan, Debbie Macrae, Provost Una Walker.

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A special cairn and plaque were unveiled this week to mark where a 330-million-year-old world famous shark fossil was found in Bearsden.

The relic was found by a young boy in 1981 in the Manse Burn in Baljaffray who, unaware of its significance, showed it to a local expert.

Bearsden shark fossil

Bearsden shark fossil

A later excavation by the late Scottish fossil collector Stan Wood revealed the one-metre-long Akmonistion zangerli, which became known as the Bearsden Shark.

It is the only complete shark fossil of its kind in the world and the Manse Burn site has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

It is on display at the Hunterian Museum at Glasgow University and has been studied in microscopic detail and compared with other fossil sharks by palaeontologists from around the world.

The small community group, aided by funding from Tarmac, firstly had the words ‘Bearsden Shark’ displayed on railings on the bridge over the burn, before completion of the cairn.

The group was started by Amanda Stewart who was Chair of the Baljaffray Residents Association at the time. The other members are Mugdock Country Park Ranger Alan McBride and local residents Neil Buchanan, Nan Lawless and Debbie Macrae.

East Dunbartonshire Provost Una Walker and Dr Neil Clark, Curator of Palaeontology at the Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow, performed the official unveiling.

The Provost said: “It is a source of great pride that such a significant scientific discovery was made in our area and it is thanks to the hard work of the local residents that the site is now properly marked.”

Dr Neil Clark has done so much work on dinosaurs in Scotland that he earned the nickname ‘Jurassic Clark’.

He said: “This is the best preserved fossil shark of its time in the world. It was a very special discovery because in most fossils it is only the hard shelly, or bony, structures that are preserved while the soft tissues generally rot away. From the tip of its nose to the end of its tail, its fragile cartilage skeleton is almost intact after 330 million years locked in the black shales of Bearsden. Even the partly digested remains of its last fish supper lie undisturbed still within the bowels.”