Archeology

Rare fossilized vomit discovered in Utah’s ‘Jurassic salad bar’

Palaeontologists in Utah were in for a surprise when they discovered a fossilised pile of small bones in Utah’s Morrison Formation.

The team from the Utah Geological Survey initially questioned whether they’d discovered a bizarre new species.

However, upon closer inspection they realised that the bones belonged to a range of amphibians that had been consumed by a larger predator, which then vomited them up 150 million years ago.

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

The prehistoric vomit was found in the Morrison Formation a famous site from the Late Jurassic that is known for its dinosaur bones.

The formation extends throughout the Western US and often contains fossils of dinosaurs such as Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, Apatosaurus, Stegosaurus and Allosaurus.

‘Although the Morrison was deposited in a wide variety of environments, it is the river channels that are most likely to contain dinosaur bones,’ explains the National Park Service.

‘Quiet water lake and pond deposits are best for preservation of the small delicate skeletons of salamanders, frogs, lizards, and others.

‘In order for a fossil to form, the body must be buried quickly before weather conditions and scavengers have a chance to scatter or otherwise destroy the bone.’

A chemical analysis of the fossil confirmed that it is a fossiled form of vomit, known as ‘regurgitalite‘.

The bones within the vomit included at least one small frog and salamander, with some of the bones measuring just 0.12 inches long.

While the researchers are unclear which predator is behind the vomit, they say the most likely culprit is a bowfin fish.

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