Gnarly Fossil Tells of a Torn Dinosaur Tail
Fossil bones are vestiges of once-living animals. It’s easy to forget that sometimes. Reconstructed skeletons and isolated bones can appear as static objects that now do little more than collect dust. That’s why I’m fascinated by paleopathologies. Recorded in bone, traces of prehistoric disease and trauma speak to critical moments in the lives of extinct creatures. A tattered dinosaur tail is one such symbol of ancient injury.
Described by Munich, Germany’s Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München paleontologist Richard Butler and coauthors in the latest Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, the appendage in question belonged to a sauropodomorph dinosaur who roamed Early Jurassic South Africa between 200 and 175 million years ago. Exactly what species the dinosaur was is difficult to discern, but, Butler and colleagues