Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fearsome fossil!

A most remarkable fossil was found in Eichstätt, Bavaria, in 2009 - even more stunning than this specimen of a 2-headed reptile. Now housed at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, the fossil (above with detail and here under UV light) has now been analyzed by German scientists. Here's what happened in a matter of minutes 120 million years ago:
A 25" (65cm) predatory Aspidorhynchus with a pointy snout like a swordfish (see artist's rendering here) was swimming in a lake. A long-tailed pterosaur Rhamphorhychus with a 27" (70cm) wingspan (see rendering here) was skimming the surface of the water, having just plucked out a meal. The hungry fish lunged up and grabbed the pterosaur's left wing, pulling the animal underwater. Unfortunately, the tough, leathery membrane got stuck in the fish's densely packed teeth. It fought, spinning and twisting, to swallow its prey or work it loose, but in the end could do neither. The fish sunk to the lake bed and suffocated with the pterosaur - wing bone broken - still lodged in its mouth.
This fossil, the best of 5 examples of the pterosaur within the jaws of the fish, was discovered in in an excellent state of preservation in the limestone of the Late Jurassic Solnhofen Formation. The story is told by Eberhard Frey and Helmut Tischlinger in "The Late Jurassic Pterosaur Rhamphorhynchus, a Frequent Victim of the Ganoid Fish Aspidorhynchus?" in the open access journal PLoS ONE. Because the meal in the pterosaur's belly (leptolepis, a specimen of which I have in my cabinet) was undigested, the paleontologists reason that it was alive and airborne during the attack. Frey points out, "These animals normally have nothing to do with each other. Apparently these encounters were fatal for both of them."

1 comment:

  1. Your blog is really amazing with all the bits and pieces of information I can share with my friends and followers. Thanks and more power!


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