Secrets of the Moscow Metro: Where to see Jurassic era fossils

Secrets of the Moscow Metro: Where to see Jurassic era fossils
Columns at several dozen metro stations contain ancient fossils. Mos.ru offers a list of metro stations that feature some amazing fossils, echoing a very distant past. 

The Moscow Metro has over 50 stations showing fossils of ammonites, coral, nautiluses, belemnites and other extinct organisms that lived on Earth in the dinosaur era . The size of the fossils differs, the largest being about 60 centimetres in diameter. They can be found at both old and new stations depending on the materials used to line the walls and columns.   

The materials containing the fossils were brought from quarries in Armenia, Georgia, the Urals, Crimea, Italy and Moscow’s immediate suburbs. Marbleised chalkstone (which is formed when chalkstone transforms into marble) from Georgian deposits in Saliyeti and Moliti are the richest in fossils. They were formed from the shells of sea creatures that were impacted by certain temperatures and pressure. The process of crystallisation can terminate at any phase, though. 

Krasnoselskaya metro station

Fossils’ age: 145–163 million years

Coral

The four-sided columns at the station are lined with Crimean marbleised chalkstone called biyuk-yankoi that largely contains solitary and colonial coral. The availability of the various sections of hexacorals on the columns allow viewers to see the organism from all sides while there is a column incorporating a whole reef, which is so large that one side of the column could not even accommodate all of it.

Hexacorals have survived to this day while rugosans vanished about 250 million years ago in the late Paleozoic era. Similar fossils can also be found at the Arbatskaya and Aeroport metro stations.  

Dobryninskaya metro station

Fossils’ age: 145–200 million years

Nautiluses

Nautiluses are beautiful cephalopods which are distant relatives of octopuses, squid and cuttlefish. The genus belongs to the Nautiloid group, which is about 500 million years old. Today, nautiluses live in the Pacific and Indian oceans but they can also be found in other areas.   

You can see a nautilus near the exit from the platform to the city. The shell is cut in two almost equal halves, so this specimen is considered to be one of the best of its kind among those discovered in the red-marble surfacing in the Moscow Metro.   

Elektrozavodskaya and Ploshchad Ilyicha also feature large and beautiful nautiluses.

Park Pobedy metro station

Fossils’ age: 145–200 million years

Ammonites and belemnites

The station’s columns are lined with Italian marbleised chalkstone, ammonitico rosso, which derives its name from ammonites that can be found in abundance in this chalkstone; ammonites are a numerous group of marine predatory mollusks. The Moscow Metro’s largest specimen, a cephalopod 60 centimetres in diameter, is visible on the two columns at the end of the platform.

Compared to other metro stations, Park Pobedy has more fossils – even entire burial sites of mollusks, with larger shells encapsulating the small shells of ammonites.

Belemnites – members of the class Cephalopod, which are often called “thunder arrows,” have also been discovered at the station. They are about 145 million years old, and they are 10 to 12 centimetres in size. They resemble squids and might have had the same ability to swim fast.

Ploshchad Ilyicha metro station

Fossils’ age: 145–200 million years

Nautiluses, gastropods, coral, sponges, bivalve mollusks and sea lilies           

Fossils can be seen on the station’s columns. Like many other stations, Ploshchad Ilyicha is lined with red marbleised chalkstone, which, in addition to nautiluses, coral and sponges, incorporates gastropods and sea lilies (echinoderms).

Gastropods, commonly known as snails, are a giant class which includes both extinct and living species. The mollusk has a body, a head and a leg. Snails are the only species that can be found on land. This metro station features the largest twisted shell while the most beautiful ones are to be found in the Crimean yellowish-beige chalkstone at the Biblioteka Lenina metro station. The passage between the Tsvetnoi Boulevard and Trubnaya stations has more snails than can be found elsewhere in the metro.

The remains of sea lilies, which are members of the Crinoid family and relatives of sea urchins and starfish, can also be seen in the chalkstone at the metro station. Also, there is an aptly cut bivalve mollusk. Due to their sedentary life-style, these organisms ultimately lost their heads. The most ancient bivalve mollusks were found in early Cambrian-era deposits, which are about 540 million years old. They can also be found at the Krasnoselskaya metro station.  

Krasnopresnenskaya metro station

Fossils’ age: 145–200 million years

Sponges, gastropods, straight-shelled nautiloids and ammonites

Several types of fossils can be found on the columns faced with red marbleised chalkstone, including gastropods and small ammonites and sponges.

Sponges have been around for over 650 million years. Scientists have identified about 8,000 species living in both salt and fresh water, however, the exact number of species is not yet known. In ancient times, sponges formed reefs, but solitary sponges can be seen in the metro station. There are also plenty of them at Pervomaiskaya, Arbatskaya, Kashirskaya, Frunzenskaya and Elektrozavodskaya.   

Straight-shelled nautiloids are rarely found in the metro. They have straight – rather than twisted – shells. This feature did not allow the organisms to move fast in the water, so they lived and fed near the bottom. Krasnopresnenskaya features the Moscow Metro’s largest shell, which is over 10 centimetres long.

Elektrozavodskaya metro station

Fossils’ age: 145–200 million years

Brachiopods and belemnites

The station’s walls are lined with Georgian reddish-brown marble, which abounds in the Jurassic era paleo fauna, including sea urchin spines, sea lily joints and brachiopod shells. The station’s marble also incorporates two larger ammonites and two large nautiluses.

There are many small brachiopods at the station, which are members of the large Brachiopod group. Their shells consist of two asymmetrical valves while each animal has a muscle that keeps it anchored to the bottom. However, not all species have this muscle. Brachiopods can be seen at Kakhovskaya, Arbatskaya, Frunzenskaya, Ploshchad Ilyicha and Krasnopresnenskaya stations.

Elektrozavodskaya also features the rarest fossils in the metro, the belemnites’ rostra (the heaviest and most solid parts of the shell). There might be more of them than is commonly believed but they are hard to discern because of their dark colour and small size.