A rich 125,000-year-old coastal ecosystem discovered under Ariane 6 in French Guiana

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Illustration of the article
Illustration of the article
An international consortium of paleontologists, geologists and biologists describes the discovery of fossil assemblages spanning the last 130,000 years beneath the Ariane 6 rocket launch site in Kourou, French Guiana. The consortium, coordinated by scientists from the Montpellier Institute of Evolutionary Sciences (Université de Montpellier/CNRS/IRD) and the Université de Guyane/Géosciences Montpellier, includes Frédéric Quillévéré from the Laboratoire de Géologie de Lyon : Terre, Planètrs, Environnement (LGL-TPE, CNRS/Université Lyon 1/ENS de Lyon/Université Jean Monnet).

The coastal assemblages discovered, rich in over 270 species of animals, plants and microorganisms, are the first to be discovered in the equatorial Atlantic. They tell us about the environmental and climatic conditions that prevailed in the region and its populations, both during a very warm period (the last interglacial, from -128,000 to -116,000 years ago) and the cold period that followed (the last glacial stage, from -100,000 to -15,000 years ago).

This discovery, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS ) , provides valuable information on unanthropized equatorial Atlantic tropical coastal ecosystems and the potential long-term impact of climate change on endangered species.


A Late Pleistocene coastal ecosystem in French Guiana was hyperdiverse relative to today. Pierre-Olivier Antoine, Linde N. Wieringa, Sylvain Adnet, Orangel Aguilera, Stéphanie C. Bodin, Stephen Cairns, Carlos A. Conejeros-Vargas, Jean-Jacques Cornée, Åoeilvinas Ežerinskis, Jan Fietzke, Natacha O. Gribenski, Sandrine Grouard, Austin Hendy, Carina Hoorn, Renaud Joannes-Boyau, Martin R. Langer, Javier Luque, Laurent Marivaux, Pierre Moissette, Kees Nooren, Frédéric Quillévéré, Justina Å apolaitÄ, Matteo Sciumbata, Pierre G. Valla, Nina H. Witteveen, Alexandre Casanova, Simon Clavier, Philibert Bidgrain, Marjorie Gallay, Mathieu Rhoné, and Arnauld Heuret. PNAS , March 25, 2024.

DOI : 10.1073/pnas.2311597121