Fossilized vomit found in Utah reveals a banquet of prehistoric amphibians

Annoying discovery! Fossilized vomit found in Utah reveals a feast of prehistoric amphibians that was overrun by a predator 150 million years ago

  • Scientists have found a fossilized pile of small bones in the Morrison Formation in Utah
  • The team initially wondered if they had discovered a new alien species
  • But analysis revealed that it was regurgitation – a fossilized form of vomiting
  • Researchers believe that the puffin fish may have eaten frogs and salamanders before they regurgitated them 150 million years ago.

Paleontologists in Utah were in for a surprise when they discovered a fossilized pile of tiny bones in the Morrison Formation in Utah.

The Utah Geological Survey team initially wondered if they had discovered a new alien species.

However, upon closer examination, they realized that the bones belonged to a group of amphibians that had been devoured by a larger predator, and then regurgitated 150 million years ago.

“This fossil gives us a rare glimpse into the interactions of animals in ancient ecosystems,” said John Foster, co-author of the findings study.

Paleontologists in Utah were in for a surprise when they discovered a fossilized pile of tiny bones in the Morrison Formation in Utah.

Morrison formation

The Morrison Formation is a rock unit of the late Jurassic period (155 million years ago – 148 million years ago).

It extends throughout the western United States and often contains fossils of dinosaurs such as Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, Apatosaurus, Stegosaurus, Allosaurus, and more.

Although the Morrison River has been deposited in a variety of environments, it is the river channels that are most likely to contain dinosaur bones.

Source: National Park Service

Prehistoric vomit has been found in the Morrison Formation – a famous late Jurassic site known for dinosaur bones.

The formation stretches across the western United States and often contains fossils of such dinosaurs as Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, Apatosaurus, Stegosaurus, and Allosaurus.

The National Park Service explains: “Although the Morrison River has been deposited in a variety of environments, it is the river channels that are most likely to contain dinosaur bones.”

The lake’s calm waters and pond sediments are best for preserving the delicate little skeletons of salamanders, frogs, lizards, and more.

“For the fossil to form, the body must be buried quickly before weather conditions have a chance for the scavengers to scatter the bones or otherwise destroy them.”

A chemical analysis of the fossil confirmed that it was a fossilized form of vomit, known as “regurgitalite”.

The vomit bones included at least a small frog and salamander, and some bones were only 0.12 inches long.

While the researchers haven’t pinpointed any predator behind the vomiting, they say the most likely culprit is the puffin fish.

While the researchers aren't clear about which predator is behind the vomit, they say the most likely culprit is the puffin (artist's impression in photo)

While the researchers aren’t clear about which predator is behind the vomit, they say the most likely culprit is the puffin (artist’s impression in photo)

The puffin is a type of freshwater fish with sharp-toothed fins and a long body, which is still found today.

The ancient lineage dates back nearly 200 million years, with many of the puffin fossils previously found in the Morrison Formation.

“Although we can’t rule out other predators, the puffin is currently the suspect, so to speak,” Foster said.

However, it is still unknown what killed the species within the vomit.

“There were three animals that we still have today, that interact in ways that are also known between those animals – prey eaten by predators and predators possibly being chased by other predators,” Foster added.

This by itself shows how similar some ancient ecosystems are to places on Earth today.

The researchers hope to continue exploring the site, hoping to find more prehistoric fossils.

James Kirkland, co-author of the study, said: “I was very excited to have found this site, as Upper Jurassic vegetation sites are very rare.

We must now carefully dissect the site in search of more small wonders among the foliage.

How did dinosaurs span about 66 million years ago

Dinosaurs ruled and dominated the Earth about 66 million years ago, before suddenly becoming extinct.

The third Cretaceous Extinction event is the name given to this mass extinction.

It was believed for many years that the changing climate destroyed the food chain of the mega reptiles.

In the 1980s, paleontologists discovered a layer of iridium.

This is a rare element on Earth but is found in huge quantities in space.

When this date was dated, it precisely coincided with the disappearance of the dinosaurs from the fossil record.

A decade later, scientists discovered the massive Chicxulub Crater at the tip of the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula, which dates back to the period in question.

The scientific consensus now says that these two factors are related, and both may have been caused by a massive asteroid collision with Earth.

With the expected size and speed of impact, the collision would have caused a massive shock wave and likely triggered seismic activity.

The fallout would have created plumes of ash that likely covered the entire planet and made surviving dinosaurs impossible.

Animals and other plant species had a shorter period of time between generations which allowed them to survive.

There are several other theories as to the reason for the demise of these famous animals.

One early theory was that small mammals eat dinosaur eggs and another suggests that poisonous angiosperms (flowering plants) kill them.

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