Printer Friendly

Flying high on a basement fossil find.

Flying high on a basement fossil find

The fossil legacy left by past species usually consists only ofbones, because the soft parts of animals normally decay before fossilization. But recently, while cleaning some stored specimens of extinct dolphin-like reptiles called ichthyosaurs in preparation for display, curators at the Leicestershire Museums in England discovered that some of the animals' skin, tendons, muscle and connective tissues were exceptionally well preserved.

Michael Taylor, an assistant keeper at the museums, reportsin the Jan. 29 NATURE that the soft parts are preserved as finely detailed mineral casts. This occurred after bacteria and fungi, which had first decomposed the original tissue, were killed and preserved by their own waste products, mainly calcium phosphate or apatite minerals.

According to Taylor, the soft tissues around the forelimbsindicate that they acted as hydrofoils and have been used to support a recently proposed theory that some ichthyosaurs, like present-day penguins, "flew' underwater with their forelimbs and used their tails only for steering. The mainstream thinking is that the animals used their large tailfins primarily for propulsion.

Sadly, more fossils that might resolve the swimming questionare probably not forthcoming, he says, because there are few hand-dug quarries from which additional well-preserved fossils might survive excavation. So, he adds, "the paleontologist must excavate in the museum cellar.'
COPYRIGHT 1987 Science Service, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:stored specimens at Leicestershire Museums lead to dinosaur discovery
Publication:Science News
Date:Feb 14, 1987
Previous Article:Delaying DOE's radwaste program.
Next Article:Is the core pure iron no more?

Related Articles
Guess who's coming to dinner?
Nesting dinosaur discovered in Mongolia.
Hints of a downy dinosaur in China.
Paleontologists deplume feathery dinosaur.
Psst ... wanna buy a T. rex? Paleontologists fret about dinosaur sales.
Getting to the guts of the dinosaur.
Feathered dinosaurs found in China.
Smuggled Chinese dinosaur to fly home.
All mixed up over birds and dinosaurs.
Electronics recycling bill advances.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters