The Department of Sciences at the Faculty of Natural and Applied Sciences (FNAS), Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU), organized on March 22, 2018, a lecture titled, “Fish Fossils of Lebanon- Richness of the Geological Past,” presented by Pierre Abi Saad, a renowned international paleontologist, author of several books on fish fossils in Lebanon, and owner of the Memoires du Temps museum in Byblos.
Abi Saad introduced the various types of fish fossils, where they were explored, and how they were preserved.
An avid fossil hunter since the age of five, he explained that fossils are formed through the occurrence of acid rain. Acid rain causes a Bloom of the phytoplankton in the water; these organisms release toxins and deplete the water of all the oxygen upon decomposition; thus, poisoning the aquatic life including the fish. This sudden death of fish and the lack of time to decompose, as they are being covered up with sediment, lead to fossilization. The following displacement of plate boundaries and orogenic process – mountain uplift –exposes the deep sea deposits rich in fossils upward to thesurface of the Earth. Most 100- million-year-old fossils are found in the area around Byblos (Hgula, Haqil, and Al Nammoura), where more than 1,200 species have been discovered of which 400 have been identified. Compared to the United States, however, where only 29 species have been identified, the fish fossils of Lebanon are a treasure of a high scientific value. Abi Saad also reports that Lebanon has the world’s largest diversity of fish fossils.
The rocks of the fish fossils’ deposits are composed of limestone with poorly-cemented grains containing less than ten percent silt, which produced tablets rich in silica. A red or brown colored rock layer can be an indicator for the presence of fish fossils. Striking the edges of the rock with a hammer and chisel, precisely with equal taps until it cracks open, perfectly preserved fish fossils are revealed; the journey of the fossil then continues to a well-equipped fish fossil laboratory, to be cleaned, studied, and identified by specialists: Eurypholis, Cyclobatis, Rhinobatos, Enchodus, shrimps, Eel, sharqs, flying fish among many other fossilized species.
Mr. Abi Saad experience: "It's like fishing. You wait and wait and when you catch that big fish you're happy. But fossils are more magical because instead of catching an ordinary fish, you catch a mermaid."