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Large, Mysterious Monster Fossil Puzzles Experts
Scientific Computing ^ | 5/1/12

Posted on 05/04/2012 10:07:30 AM PDT by null and void


UC Paleontologist David Meyer, left and Carlton Brett, right, flank Ron Fine, who discovered the large fossil spread out on the table.

Around 450 million years ago, shallow seas covered the Cincinnati region and harbored one very large and now very mysterious organism. Despite its size, no one has ever found a fossil of this “monster” until its discovery by an amateur paleontologist last year.

The fossilized specimen, a roughly elliptical shape with multiple lobes, totaling almost seven feet in length, was unveiled at the North-Central Section 46th Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America in Dayton, OH. Participating in the presentation were amateur paleontologist Ron Fine of Dayton, who originally found the specimen, Carlton E. Brett and David L. Meyer of the University of Cincinnati geology department, and Benjamin Dattilo of the Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne geosciences faculty.

Fine is a member of the Dry Dredgers, an association of amateur paleontologists based at the University of Cincinnati. The club, celebrating its 70th anniversary this month, has a long history of collaborating with academic paleontologists.

“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 layer of rock in which he found the specimen near Covington, KY, is known to produce a lot of nodules or concretions in a soft, clay-rich rock known as shale.

“While those nodules can take on some fascinating, sculpted forms, I could tell instantly that this was not one of them,” Fine said. “There was an ‘organic’ form to these shapes. They were streamlined.”

Fine was reminded of streamlined shapes of coral, sponges and seaweed as a result of growing in the presence of water currents.

“And then there was that surface texture,” Fine said. “Nodules do not have surface texture. They're smooth. This fossil had an unusual texture on the entire surface.”

For more than 200 years, the rocks of the Cincinnati region have been among the most studied in all of paleontology, and the discovery of an unknown, and large, fossil has professional paleontologists scratching their heads.

“It’s definitely a new discovery,” Meyer said. “And we’re sure it’s biological. We just don’t know yet exactly what it is.”

To answer that key question, Meyer said that he, Brett and Dattilo were working with Fine to reconstruct a timeline working backward from the fossil, through its preservation, burial and death to its possible mode of life.

“What things had to happen in what order?” Meyer asked. “Something caused a directional pattern. How did that work? Was it there originally or is it post-mortem? What was the burial event? How did the sediment get inside? Those are the kinds of questions we have.”

It has helped, Meyer said, that Fine has painstakingly reassembled the entire fossil. This is a daunting task, since the large specimen is in hundreds of pieces.

“I’ve been fossil collecting for 39 years and never had a need to excavate. But this fossil just kept going, and going, and going,” Fine said. “I had to make 12 trips, over the course of the summer, to excavate more material before I finally found the end of it.”

Even then he still had to guess as to the full size, because it required countless hours of cleaning and reconstruction to put it all back together.

“When I finally finished it was three-and-a-half feet wide and six-and-a-half feet long,” Fine said. “In a world of thumb-sized fossils that’s gigantic!”

Meyer, co-author of A Sea without Fish: Life in the Ordovician Sea of the Cincinnati Region, agreed that it might be the largest fossil recovered from the Cincinnati area.

“My personal theory is that it stood upright, with branches reaching out in all directions similar to a shrub,” Fine said. “If I am right, then the upper-most branch would have towered nine feet high. “

As Meyer, Brett and Dattilo assist Fine in studying the specimen, they have found a clue to its life position in another fossil. The mystery fossil has several small, segmented animals known as primaspid trilobites attached to its lower surface. These small trilobites are sometimes found on the underside of other fossilized animals, where they were probably seeking shelter.

“A better understanding of that trilobite’s behavior will likely help us better understand this new fossil,” Fine said.

Although the team has reached out to other specialists, no one has been able to find any evidence of anything similar having been found. The mystery monster seems to defy all known groups of organisms, Fine said, and descriptions, even pictures, leave people with more questions than answers.

The April 24 presentation is a “trial balloon,” Meyer said, an opportunity for the team to show a wide array of paleontologists what the specimen looks like and to collect more hypotheses to explore.

“We hope to get a lot of people stopping by to offer suggestions,” he said.

In the meantime, the team is playing around with potential names. They are leaning toward “Godzillus.”


TOPICS: Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: dinosaurs; godsgravesglyphs; paleontology
Large being a relative term...
1 posted on 05/04/2012 10:07:35 AM PDT by null and void
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To: null and void; blam

It’s Godzilla’s coprolite!


2 posted on 05/04/2012 10:16:48 AM PDT by Thud
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To: SunkenCiv

For your GGG ping list.


3 posted on 05/04/2012 10:17:02 AM PDT by HoneysuckleTN (Where the woodbine twineth... || FUBO! OMG! ABO!)
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To: null and void

Looks like Helen Thomas’ Freshman wardrobe...


4 posted on 05/04/2012 10:22:08 AM PDT by rjsimmon (1-20-2013 The Tree of Liberty Thirsts)
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To: null and void
450 million years ago, shallow seas covered the Cincinnati region

And it was a much better place.

5 posted on 05/04/2012 10:22:54 AM PDT by BenLurkin (This is not a statement of fact. It is either opinion or satire; or both)
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To: Thud

You’ll note that these guys “discovered the large fossil spread out on the table.”

Whoever left it there might com eback looking for it.


6 posted on 05/04/2012 10:24:30 AM PDT by BenLurkin (This is not a statement of fact. It is either opinion or satire; or both)
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To: Thud

You’ll note that these guys “discovered the large fossil spread out on the table.”

Whoever left it there might com eback looking for it.


7 posted on 05/04/2012 10:24:40 AM PDT by BenLurkin (This is not a statement of fact. It is either opinion or satire; or both)
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To: null and void

8 posted on 05/04/2012 10:34:35 AM PDT by khelus
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To: All
Lots of it still around in Arizona...


9 posted on 05/04/2012 10:39:53 AM PDT by az_gila
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To: null and void

Wow! They found it spread out on the table! That's amazing!

Do they have any idea how it got there?

10 posted on 05/04/2012 11:02:31 AM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum (Do I really need a sarcasm tag? Seriously? You're that dense?)
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To: null and void

No mystery, this is just a fossil of the Multi-Lobed Monster, seven foot variety. Old thing, very old. And large too.


11 posted on 05/04/2012 11:40:21 AM PDT by count-your-change (You don't have to be brilliant, not being stupid is enough.)
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12 posted on 05/04/2012 11:40:43 AM PDT by RedMDer (https://support.woundedwarriorproject.org/default.aspx?tsid=93)
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To: E. Pluribus Unum

Since the table is in a “lower layer” than the fossil,
it must be four hundred fifty ONE million years old.


13 posted on 05/04/2012 11:42:42 AM PDT by MrB (The difference between a Humanist and a Satanist - the latter knows whom he's working for)
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To: null and void

It was obviously in the process of changing from something to something else, thus proving the theory of evolution.


14 posted on 05/04/2012 11:48:50 AM PDT by St_Thomas_Aquinas (Viva Christo Rey!)
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To: null and void

I’d say it was a ‘Splatosaurus’, the remains of a dino embryo that was stepped on by another dino to abort the foetus to preserve the health of the mother. SPLAT!


15 posted on 05/04/2012 12:10:03 PM PDT by wildbill (You're just jealous because the Voices talk only to me.)
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To: az_gila
Do those make good nopales?
16 posted on 05/04/2012 7:44:33 PM PDT by TXnMA ("Allah": Satan's current alias...)
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To: TXnMA
Probably, but picking them and preparing them can be painful...:^)

They are covered with a short prickly fuzz and well as the visible thorns.

17 posted on 05/04/2012 9:14:34 PM PDT by az_gila
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To: az_gila
Sounds like the Opuntia ("Prickly Pear") that grows all over Texas, but which are not abundant here in the far northeast of the state. (Nor are they tall like in your photo...) Anybody who has ever contacted one quickly becomes familiar with those nasty tiny spines! :-(

There are special tools made just for removing the spines (large & small) without getting them in you:

This set includes an acrylic cutting board, and the tool at the left is made for holding the pads down while using the middle tool for "de-stickering" them. I'd think that some good tongs and a sharp regular knife for harvesting pads would be a good addition to the toolkit.

The above tools are pictured (and available) onlline at http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Articles/Ethnic-Unique-Foods-Ingredients-645/nopalitos.aspx.

Fortunately, my brother-in-law has a special cultivated spineless variety growing on his place in central Texas, and has offered me cuttings...

~~~~~~~~~

I like most green vegetables, but, I've never eaten nopalitos -- so I don't know if they are worth the trouble...

18 posted on 05/05/2012 9:04:54 AM PDT by TXnMA ("Allah": Satan's current alias...)
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To: HoneysuckleTN; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; decimon; 1010RD; 21twelve; 24Karet; ...

 GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach
Thanks HoneysuckleTN.
UC Paleontologist David Meyer, left and Carlton Brett, right, flank Ron Fine, who discovered the large fossil spread out on the table.
Odd that no one discovered it before.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.


19 posted on 05/05/2012 9:15:46 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (FReepathon 2Q time -- https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: null and void

From what I’ve heard, seems Cinci could use a large filter feeder to help clean things up.

Maybe the sciencians should grow some of them things and let them loose?


20 posted on 05/05/2012 10:23:22 AM PDT by Grimmy (equivocation is but the first step along the road to capitulation)
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To: TXnMA

I’ve had them, they’re good but would be bland if served by themselves. We added them to eggs, tomatoes, & onions to make a burrito filling. You cut them into squares and boil them to remove the slimy texture. Nopalito is supposed to have some benefit for diabetics.


21 posted on 05/05/2012 8:29:05 PM PDT by Pelham (Marco Rubio, la raza trojan horse.)
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To: E. Pluribus Unum

It’s no wonder the experts are puzzled. Who could possibly have left it on the table?

Science is full of great mysteries.


22 posted on 05/07/2012 8:22:39 AM PDT by Yardstick
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