Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mystery fossil

The fossil of a large sea animal or plant was discovered near Covington, Kentucky, by amateur Ohio paleontologist Ron Fine who says. "I knew right away that I had found an unusual fossil. Imagine a saguaro cactus with flattened branches and horizontal stripes in place of the usual vertical stripes. That's the best description I can give." The elliptical pieces of the 450-million-year-old specimen (image above, more of it here) was found in the soft, clay-rich rock of the Kope Formation (photos here) near Cincinnati. When fitted together, they suggest a size of  7' (2.1m) x 3.5' (1m) when the creature was alive. There were a number of trilobites adhering, which may have been hiding in it or grazing on it. David Meyer of the University of Cincinnati describes the fossil as covered in mini-ripples, sort of like wrinkles or corrugation and speculates, "My initial thought was an algal mat on the sea bottom, and then it got deformed somehow into these funny shapes and then preserved." He, Brett Carlton (University of Cincinatti), and Benjamin Dattilo (Indiana University) analyzed the fossil in hopes of identifying it. The researchers reasoned that it was very unlikely to be a complex organism, and offered several possibilities:
  • a huge mass of algae
  • a microbial mat
  • coral that died and were then overgrown by a bryozoan or a sponge
  • a member of the cnidarian family
The team described the enigmatic lobate fossil at last month's annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. But it seems that the mystery has now been solved: the fossilized organism is in fact algae - specifically Lepidolites dickhautii (photos here) - which has been seen in the Kope Formation before and documented in 1879.
Previous posts about fossils:

1 comment:

  1. Chris,
    Ron Fine's Mystery Fossil code named "Godzillus" is not the algae Lepidolites dickhautii. My web page on describing my find of this particular algae was written before Ron found his Godzillus fossil. According to Dr. David Meyer, the Univ of Cinti paleontologist studying and housing the "Godzillus" fossil, "I do not think the "Godzillus" fossil is Lepidolites.....I do think it was produced by a microbial mat along with deformation due to some movement by flow along the bottom or slumping. The mat is the primary feature that trapped fine sediment that came in as an event like a storm or sediment flow."
    Thanks for your interest in "Godzillus" and my find of Lepidolites algae. See for details.
    Bill Heimbrock, Webmaster, and


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