MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. - While paleontologists may scour remote, exotic places in search of prehistoric specimens, Tufts researchers have found what they believe to be the world's oldest whole-body fossil impression of a flying insect in a wooded field behind a strip mall in North Attleboro, Mass.
During a recent exploration as part of his senior project, Richard J. Knecht, a Tufts geology major, and Jake Benner, a paleontologist and senior lecturer in the Geology Department, set out to hunt for fossils at a location they learned of while reading a master's thesis that had been written in 1929. With chisels and hammers, the team reached the shale and sandstone outcropping described in the paper. There they delicately picked away pieces of rock before reaching a section that yielded fossils. Just below the surface, they uncovered a fossilized impression of a flying insect.
Knecht, 30, is a senior at Tufts who enrolled through Tufts' Resumed Education for Adult Learners program (REAL), following coursework at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. He is a native of Chatham, Mass. At Tufts he has received four grants and fellowship money to support his work from the Paleontological Society, the Geological Society of America and Tufts University.