1.1 What is Birk Knowes SSSI?

One of the fossil-bearing exposures of Birk Knowes, Lanarkshire, Scotland.

Birk Knowes SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) is a world-class fossil site of unique scientific value located on the banks of Logan Water in a remote area approximately 10km south-west of the town of Lesmahagow in Lanarkshire, Scotland. The locality is also known under the names Logan Water and Jamoytius Horizon.

The fossils from this site are from the Silurian period (approximately 430 Million years old), and are mainly composed of unusual fishes and arthropods.

Ainiktozoon loganense, an enigmatic arthropod known from only two places; Waukesha in Wisconsin, USA, and Birk Knowes in Lanarkshire, Scotland.

What makes this site spectacular is the exceptional preservation of fossils. Under normal circumstances, soft tissues such as skin and muscle tissues decay rapidly after death. However, at Birk Knowes the perished organisms were underway to being fossilised perhaps hours after death and deposition (see below). The soft tissues therefore have an appearance as though they were frozen in time. Such special circumstances allows a unique insight into the mysterious creatures which once lived in this ancient marine environment.

We have worked at this site for a several years and we made a number of discoveries here. A brief overview of our work can be seen in the About Us section.

Fossilised muscle tissues belonging to the enigmatic arthropod Ainiktozoon loganense.

Unfortunately, Birk Knowes has been inaccessible to science since the year 1995. The site was closed by Scottish Natural Heritage as a result of damaging illegal collecting activities. On the next pages an account is given of the failures on the part of this government body to protect this unique locality, which allowed unauthorised collecters to ransack the site for many years.

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