Home News 280-Million-Year-Old Fossil: Paint Reveals Deception, But Hope Remains

280-Million-Year-Old Fossil: Paint Reveals Deception, But Hope Remains

A recent study published in the journal Palaeontology has revealed that a 280-million-year-old fossil, previously considered a crucial specimen for understanding early reptile evolution, was partially forged. This discovery raises concerns about the accuracy of previous research conducted using this fossil, known as Tridentinosaurus antiquus.

Previously Believed to be Preserved Soft Tissue

Discovered in the Italian Alps in 1931, Tridentinosaurus antiquus initially held significance due to its apparent preserved soft tissues, visible as a dark outline against the surrounding rock. This led to its classification as a member of the Protorosauria reptile group.

New Study Exposes Deception

However, the new study, conducted by an international team of researchers, reveals a different story. Through microscopic analysis and ultraviolet (UV) photography, the team discovered that the dark outline was not fossilized soft tissue but black paint applied to a carved lizard-shaped rock surface.

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Common Fossil Preservation Practices Raise Questions

Historically, applying coatings like varnishes and lacquers was common practice for preserving fossils in museum collections. This raises further questions about the potential for unidentified alterations in other fossils.

Genuine Bones and Scales Offer Partial Redemption

While the body outline was confirmed to be artificial, the study found that the hindlimb bones and small osteoderms (bony scales) on the suspected back of the animal are likely genuine, albeit poorly preserved.

Study Highlights Importance of Scrutiny

“The peculiar preservation of Tridentinosaurus had puzzled experts for decades,” notes study co-author Professor Evelyn Kustatscher. “Now it all makes sense. What was described as carbonized skin is just paint.” This discovery underscores the importance of thorough scrutiny and advanced analytical techniques when studying fossils, especially those with unusual preservation.

Further Research Needed

The team emphasizes the need for further research to determine the extent of such practices in fossil collections and their potential impact on scientific understanding. Additionally, the genuine bones and scales might offer valuable insights into this ancient reptile’s anatomy and relationships.

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