Thursday, 26 April 2012

A Mystery

The mysterious fossil from Ohio. Ron Fine is
on the right and Professor Meyer on the left
Anyone who has gone fossil hunting will know that it can be relatively easy to identity a generic source. A careful eye or blow from a rock hammer might reveal a curing, ridged edge or segmented disk.

Even if the species is unidentifiable, the group is often immediately apparent: ammonites or trilobites are very distinctive. If you know a bit about the geology of the rocks from which you have collected your specimens, bones can be placed, with some degree of certainty, with reptilian or mammalian owners.

One of the pieces of Godzillus held by Meyer (above on the left)
A complete skeleton or carapace, especially if it displays features unique to a species, means that identification is simplified further. However, from time to time, fossils turn up which stump palaeontologists. A perfect example is the 150 million year old limestone outcrops at the Solnhofen Plattenkalk in Germany, displaying strange marks which were similar to the tracks made in soft mud by a bike tyre.

These were eventually identified as being made by ammonites caught in the rough tides of the area, which had rolled along the bottom of the lagoon on their edges. Now a fossil has been found which, so far, is unidentifiable. An amateur palaeontologist, Ron Fine, excavating in the 45 million year old Cincinnati region in Ohio uncovered the remains of a 7 foot, long, 68 kilogram, roughly elliptical organism composed of multiple lobes. 'I knew right away that I had found an unusual fossil,'

Fine said, '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 specimen, nicknamed Godzillus ('like Godzilla, it's a primordial beast that found its way to the modern era'), so far does not fit within a particular group of organisms. 'It's definitely a new discovery,' said David L. Meyer from the University of Cincinnati geology department. 'And we're sure it's biological.

The only reason why the specimen was identified as a fossil was due to a series of ridged patterns on the surface. Meyer stated that it reminded him of goose-flesh. We just don't know yet exactly what it is.' Fine has said that the shape reminds him of the way branching corals and weeds go with the flow of currents in a stream or river; a florid description yet still no name.