‘Extraordinary’ pile of prehistoric puke found in Utah uncovers new ancient animal behavior

The fossilized vomit was found at a web site east of Bears Ears National Monument that researchers discuss with because the “Jurassic Salad Bar.”

(Photo supplied by Jim Kirkland) Fossilized vomit not too long ago discovered by Utah paleontologists east of Bears Ears National Monument reveals the stays of a tadpole and salamander from the late-Jurassic interval.

An “extraordinary” pile of prehistoric puke found in southeastern Utah contained an insightful treasure for paleontologists: fossilized amphibian bones, seemingly vomited up by an historical fish, in response to a research printed final month.

The discovery signifies that no less than one historical animal apparently puked up a meal to evade a predator — beforehand undocumented habits from the North American Jurassic interval.

“It’s pretty exciting,” state paleontologist James Kirkland mentioned, noting that the invention will “fill out a lot of information for what we think was going on in Utah during the upper-Jurassic [period].”

The historical vomit was discovered by John Foster, museum curator on the Utah Field House of Natural History. Foster and Kirkland had been scouting websites east of Bears Ears National Monument in 2016 once they stumbled on what their survey notes describe because the “Jurassic Salad Bar” web site.

The web site is a trove of remarkably preserved fossils from the upper-Jurassic interval, one of many best ever found within the U.S. It’s situated within the Morrison Formation — the identical rock layer because the dinosaur stays found at Dinosaur National Monument.

At the “Salad Bar” web site, researchers “literally could peel leaves of extinct plants right off the rock,” Kirkland mentioned. They additionally discovered fossilized crayfish, big water bugs and fish scales — and, the fossilized fish puke.

The retched stays weren’t instantly recognized as vomit, Kirkland mentioned, for the reason that pile itself solely measured about an inch throughout within the fossilized slabs he and Foster had been inspecting. But when Foster analyzed the tiny bones he discovered beneath a microscope, he realized they belonged to 2 several types of animals — a juvenile tadpole and a salamander.

“Having them mixed, it became more likely this is from a frog-salamander eater,” Kirkland mentioned. “Nothing else like that was found at this time — and it’s a real important, sensitive site, and we hope to get a lot more out of it, but this was the only thing like it we found. Pretty extraordinary.”

(Utah State Parks) During the Late Jurassic of what’s now southeastern Utah, a bowfin fish makes an attempt to sneak up on a frog floating on the floor of a pond, together with leaves of ginkgophytes, whereas one other bowfin regurgitates a part of a current meal of frogs and a salamander. This is one attainable situation of the origin of the brand new fossil from the Morrison Formation. Artwork by Brian Engh.

The seemingly supply of the vomit was an historical bowfin fish, which can have regurgitated its most up-to-date meal to distract a predator in pursuit 150 million years in the past — when this space of southeastern Utah was a swampy marshland.

“This fossil gives us a rare glimpse into the interactions of the animals in ancient ecosystems,” Foster mentioned in a information launch this week. “There were three animals that we still have around today, interacting in ways also known today among those animals — prey eaten by predators, and predators perhaps chased by other predators.”

“That itself shows how similar some ancient ecosystems were to places on Earth today,” he mentioned.

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