150-million-year-old vomit found in Utah offers ‘uncommon glimpse’ of prehistoric ecosystems

An artist’s drawing of a puffin attempting to get near a frog floating on the floor of a lake, whereas one other glass fills a portion of a latest meal of frogs and newts. The goby is the presumed predator of a 150-million-year-old vomitus fossil found in southeastern Utah. (Brian Ing by way of Utah State Parks Department)

Approximate studying time: 3-4 minutes

VERNAL – Fossils just lately found in southeastern Utah seem to disclose what prey animals ate throughout the age of dinosaurs, when the realm was not but the desert it’s in the present day.

Paleontologists in Utah found a pile of amphibian bones that they are saying had been scavenged by some predator. According to paleontologists from the Utah Geological Survey, the Utah Department of State Parks, and the Heritage Aviation and Combat Armor Museum in Washington, D.C., this prehistoric vomit is believed to be 150 million years previous.

Their findings had been printed in the journal Palaios final month.

“This fossil offers us a uncommon perception into animal interactions in historic ecosystems,” John Foster, curator on the Utah Museum of Natural History and one of the research’s co-authors, stated Tuesday.

The group found the fossil whereas looking out the Morrison Formation, a well-known fossil web site recognized for its Late Jurassic fossils courting from about 148 million years in the past to 155 million years in the past. It is generally recognized for its dinosaur bones, however scientists have additionally found a spread of different animals right here, corresponding to fish, salamanders, and frogs.

The southeastern half of the Utah Formation is especially characterised by prehistoric vegetation corresponding to ginkgo, ferns, and conifers. However, paleontologists additionally found amphibians and puffins there. These findings are the explanation they imagine that this space as soon as had a small pond or lake.

But throughout a latest research, the group found a unusually organized fossil. It was a set of bones that included “components” of a minimum of one small frog or tadpole and can be “the smallest salamander specimen reported in the formation,” the researchers wrote in the research. Some of these bones had been solely 0.12 inches lengthy, among the many smallest group of bones in the formation.

They added that the chemical and skeletal composition of the pit signifies regurgitation, a fossilized kind of vomit. The group notes that that is the primary such discovery in the Morrison Formation, in addition to in the Jurassic interval of North America.

150 million years later, it is nonetheless unclear what killed the species in the regurgitation. Foster notes that earlier analysis has positioned the tusks in the realm at a time he believes is “the most effective match up to now” for the predator behind the fossil. Scientists have found species of fish, salamanders and frogs in the Morrison Formation for greater than a century.

“While we won’t rule out different predators, the deadhead is at present a suspect, so to talk,” he stated, explaining that fish — and different animals — typically regurgitate their final meal after they’re being chased or wish to distract a predator.

“There had been three animals that we nonetheless have in the present day that work together in methods which can be recognized amongst these animals: prey eaten by predators, and predators probably being chased by different predators,” he added. “That alone exhibits how related some historic ecosystems are to locations on Earth in the present day.”

This is the most recent discovery made by the group in the area. Two of the research’s three co-authors are additionally serving to. A 151-million-year-old large aquatic insect was found, resulting in a paper printed in 2020.

State paleontologist James Kirkland, a co-author of each research, stated paleontologists plan to proceed exploring the location the place the prehistoric vomit was found to see if they will discover extra proof of the realm’s previous ecosystem.

“I used to be very happy to seek out this web site, as patches of Upper Jurassic vegetation are very uncommon,” he stated in an announcement. “Now we now have to totally dissect the place, searching for extra little wonders among the many leaves.”


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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers normal information, outside actions, historical past and sports activities for KSL.com. He beforehand labored for the Deseret News. It is transplanted to Utah by way of Rochester, New York.

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