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Mysterious lizard fossil's 'soft tissue' turns out to be mostly just black paint

By T.K. Randall
February 16, 2024 · Comment icon 0 comments
Lizard fossil.
The fossil's black outline is not quite what it seems. Image Credit: Valentina Rossi
For decades, the fossil of a lizard found over 90 years ago was thought to exhibit evidence of preserved soft tissues.
Almost a century ago, palaeontologists were left scratching their heads over the discovery of a 280 million-year-old lizard fossil discovered near a remote village in the Italian Alps.

What made it particularly intriguing was a distinctive black outline around the fossil that, for many years, was thought to be preserved soft tissue - something rarely seen in such specimens.

The species - dubbed Tridentinosaurus antiquus - was later described by Piero Leonardi in 1959 who believed that it was part of the Protorosauria group.

Now, though, scientists have cast doubt on whether the fossil's soft tissues are even tissues at all.
Using modern scanning and analytical techniques, it has been possible to determine that the dark outline is some sort of black paint that was possibly applied decades ago to help preserve the fossil.

"This fossil was discovered in 1931 and back then fossils were treated very differently than today," said study co-author Valentina Rossi of University College Cork in Ireland.

"Application of paints, consolidates and lacquers on fossil bones was the norm, because that was the only way to protect the specimens for further deterioration."

"It was also sometimes to embellish specimens by making them sleek and shiny."

"Unfortunately, in the case of Tridentinosaurus, the mechanical preparation did most of the damage and then the application of a black paint created the illusion of a lizard-like animal impression on the surface of the rock."

Source: Ars Technica | Comments (0)

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