Seashell fossils of Champagne – La Cave aux Coquillages

Feb 13, 12 Seashell fossils of Champagne – La Cave aux Coquillages

Posted by in Champagne, Travel

Champagne. The word conjures up decadence, luxury, a love of life, tiny bubbles and… seashells? Seashells may not be on the top of your list when the word champagne pops up but they are an integral part of what makes champagne, champagne. Hidden beneath our feet lies the soul of champagne, the calcarous soil. While it may seem that vignerons bang on and on about soil and the terroir, it is important and does have an effect on the wine, which is very apparent in the the Champagne region. The area  is uniquely situated on top of an ancient seabed which gives it its famous limestone chalky soils, that basin of limestone marl, the Kimmerdigian Ridge (as a side note, the white cliffs of Dover are also a part of it and the ridge extends into English wine country). 45 million years ago, Champagne was under a tropical sea, teeming with life. Vertebrates like fish and sharks, existed along with invertebrates such as gastropods, nautilus, crabs, and ancient cuttlefish, as well as sea urchin and a multitude of coral.  They all made their home in the Sea of Champagne (before it was bubbly). The shells (and in the shark’s case -teeth) of the creatures settled into the soft sand and today, they make up the limestone and chalk that is Champagne. In this particular site, there are over 200 metres of seashells excavated at a depth of about 8 to 10 metres below the surface and that is just literally scratching the surface. The most prevalent of the shells, they are found literally one on top of the other, is the giant snail, Campanile Giganteum, the specimens they find can be  up to 60 cms long! Our tour guide and part time excavator, Sarah, speculated that they were in such abundance in this area because of a lack of natural predators and that they literally died of over-population. An interesting theory and one that they hope some enterprising geology researcher will come to prove...

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