When the Morris family took a trip to the beach at Llantwit Major in Wales last Sunday, nine-year-old Eli made a special discovery: a 200-million-year-old ammonite!

He found the fossil in a rock face. “I was sitting here looking up and I was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s big!'” says the nine-year-old. According to experts, the size – about 30 centimeters in diameter – and quality of the ammonite is unusual for the area, the Vale of Glamorgan.

At home, Eli has a collection of smaller fossils. Whether in the living room, in the kitchen, in the stairwell or in Eli’s bedroom – the treasures of the nine-year-old can be found throughout the house. “They’re just interesting and I like their shape and texture,” he says.

Eli often goes fossil hunting with his father, Glenn Morris, but usually closer to their home in Birchgrove, Swansea. “We’re always somewhere along the coast, usually the Gower Way, but this was our first time here [in the Vale of Glamorgan] so it was really beginners luck,” says Glenn Morris. He, too, is said to have been “quite a nerd” as a child who – like his son today – was enthusiastic about dinosaurs and rocks. “I think I passed that on to him,” Morris said.

The rocks that form the beach and cliffs at Llantwit Major date from the Jurassic period and are around 200 million years old. The rock consists of a mixture of limestone and mudstone, the so-called Blue Lias Formation. The National History Museum in London congratulated Eli on his extraordinary find and encouraged him to “keep up his good work”.

“The fossil Eli found is an ammonite, a species of mollusk closely related to octopus, squid and cuttlefish that is rarely found in Llantwit Major,” says Dr. Nick Felstead, Lecturer in Physical Geography at Swansea University. “We can see that the inner chambers that served to lift the ammonite were filled with quartz during fossilization, which is even rarer and makes this specimen particularly beautiful.”

Sources: BBC, Sky news