Photo courtesy of the Shetland Museum

Melby coral

Melby coral

This striking specimen was collected by the late Robert Jamieson of Melby and donated to the Shetland Museum in 1981 (NAT 81420). The original context of the fossil is not clear but it was described as being released as a result of coastal erosion. No similar material has been  observed, however, on the storm beaches at Melby. Neither has any far-travelled glacial erratic been found there.

The cream-coloured Favosites coral measures ~420 x 230 mm. This extinct genus of corals  is found as fossils in marine rocks from the Ordovician to the Permian periods (between 488 and 251 Ma).

The original source of the coral is a puzzle. A marine coral cannot be derived from the terrestrial Old Red Sandstone basin of Lake Orcadie. No younger sedimentary limestone occurs on Shetland. Glacial transport from Permo-Triassic rocks found offshore in St Magnus Bay also appears highly unlikely as these are entirely continental sandstones and conglomerates. It seems that the coral is not of Shetland origin. Human agency is most likely involved, especially as this is a boulder of such striking appearance.