Not every day, paleontologists come across fossils despite their best efforts, so it is such a marvelous moment when they do. Apart from the difficulty in finding one, studying what a certain fossil was like when it was still alive proves to be a more difficult task, especially before. Thanks to the advancement of technology, people of science uncover ways to link the past to the present day. One good example of this innovation is the recent discovery of a more defined view of a very old fossil.
A team of researchers studying the geology of southern France uncovered a fossilized cephalopod that has not been seen in 300 years.
The fossil is estimated to be 30 million years old and was first recovered using a High-Imaging Technique which uses ultraviolet light. This technique confirmed the existence of the fossil and led to its excavation. .The fossil was then subjected to a range of other techniques and analyses, including an X-ray CT scan which revealed the presence of a second skull within the rock. The most likely explanation for this is that when the first skull died, its brain fell apart and it was eaten by scavengers. This second skull is estimated to be between 15 and 20 million years old. The fossil was found in rocks from the early Miocene, about 22 million years ago in what is now the northern region of the Sahara Desert in Algeria. The fossil has been identified as a new species, “Giraffatitan brancai”, that roamed the Earth when it was a lot cooler than it is now. It’s not yet clear which of the two skulls belonged to this species.
Cephalopods are the most successful and intelligent animals in the ocean. Fossil hunting is a difficult task, but one fossil hunter managed to find a cephalopod fossil that was uncovered 30 years ago thanks to a high-imaging technique.
Cephalopods are a group of marine animals which have been around for 500 million years and have survived through five mass extinctions. They are the most successful and intelligent animals in the ocean.
They belong to the class of Cephalopoda as well as cuttlefish, squid, and octopus species–which all share some common features like ten arms, short legs for crawling on rocks or sand at low tide, etc. However, they all differ in size, the shape of tentacles (fleshy protuberances), degree of movement (sedentary or active), type of locomotion (swimming or crawling), etc. The earliest known member is “Ichthyolithus”.
In 1988, an ancient cephalopod fossil was found, but due to limitations in the imaging technique, it was impossible to study the full skeleton.
Using a high-imaging technique, the team of researchers managed to uncover details that were initially too delicate to see. The information provided is insightful into the evolution of cephalopods.
Way back in 1982, B. Riou and J.C. Fischer were able to find a fossil of a cephalopod, which is considered to be a rare find. It was very rare that, up to date, it is still the fossil that stands out. This treasure is that of a 165-million-year-old octopus’ fossil. B. Riou and J.C. Fischer named the octopus “Proteroctopus ribeti”. They explained what they could to the delight of other paleontologists, using whatever available “remnants” they could get out of it.
Even though there were intricacies in its details and a lot of ammonite shells and belemnite guards, the soft tissues of this prehistoric creature were not easy to uncover since it was believed to be a squished version of its former self. It was not after three decades that Isabelle Kruta, a paleontologist from Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, and her colleagues were able to offer a more realistic view of this fossil.
Using a high-definition imaging technology called synchrotron microtomography, the team could provide a 3D view of the creature to try to see what it looked like when it was still alive. Paleontologists from around the world could not be any happier with this discovery. Linking the past to the present is slowly becoming more feasible, visible and possible with the help of innovative inventions of people of science. Slowly, we are starting to uncover treasures that were not deemed possible before due to the limitations of technology. This old cephalopod is one good example of a certain treasure that waited for the perfect time to reveal itself.