Prehistoric remnants to clash for the title of ‘Ireland’s favourite fossil’

8 Nov 2022

The Tetrapod Trackway in Valentia Island in Kerry, which contains some of the earliest known footprints of land animals. Image: Image: © Izzard /

During Science Week 2022, the public can pick their favourite from a shortlist of 10 of Ireland’s most interesting fossils.

A nationwide poll is hoping to find out Ireland’s favourite fossil.

A team at University College Cork (UCC) has prepared a shortlist of 10 of Ireland’s unique and interesting fossils, which include ancient plants, animals and fossil footprints.

These prehistoric finds come from more than 500m years of history on Earth, discovered at various locations across Ireland.

The vote takes place alongside Science Week 2022, which is running from Sunday 13 November to Sunday 20 November. Organised by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), this science celebration will see virtual and in-person events taking place nationwide to get the Irish public thinking.

UCC said the fossil shortlist was selected with the help of Irish palaeontologists and includes iconic fossils such as the extinct amphibian Keraterpeton, which was originally found in Kilkenny and resembles a tiny dragon.

Another contender is the Cooksonia, one of the earliest ever plants. This fossil was found in Tipperary and is only a few millimetres in height.

Another contender for Ireland’s favourite fossil is the Tetrapod Trackway on Valentia Island, which is a UNESCO world heritage site in Kerry. This location is made up of some of the earliest known footprints of land animals.

There is also the Archaeopteris, a tree-like plant with fern-like leaves that evolved around 400m years ago. This is often considered one of the earliest types of tree, with fossils found at Kiltorcan Quarry in Kilkenny.

“People are naturally fascinated by fossils,” UCC’s Dr Jess Franklin said. “They connect us with our ancient past and to a time when Ireland looked completely different to how it looks today”.

The vote is part of Ireland’s Fossil Heritage, a public engagement project based at UCC’s School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences. The project will be posting across its social media channels about one shortlisted fossil every day up until voting opens this Sunday.

UCC plans to host a number of public events to mark Science Week. This includes Celebrate Science, a free-to-attend family science day in UCC’s Western Gateway Building on 13 November.  There will be a stand on the day showcasing the potential winners for Ireland’s favourite fossil.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic