Plants and Animals

Prehistoric Predator’s Fossilized Vomit Shows Amphibious Meatloaf in Jurassic Bleurgh

Prehistoric Predator’s Fossilized Vomit Shows Amphibious Meatloaf in Jurassic Bleurgh

When scientists discovered they had discovered preserved vomit in the Morrison Formation in southeast Utah, they realized they had discovered an unusual sort of fossil. A group of amphibians, including at least one tiny frog and possibly the smallest salamander ever discovered in the area, were located inside the tiny regurgitalite.

In this region of America, finding fossil vomit is unusual, yet one was discovered in the Jurassic Salad Bar, so named because of the ancient plant material it was discovered to contain. It appears from the silt and the plant and animal remains it is home to that it was once a pond a few hundred million years ago.

The aquatic remains that a predator at the time had supposedly ingested came back up in a ball of tiny bones, indicating that it had obviously bit off more than it could chew (some just 3 millimeters [0.12 inches] long). Vomit that old isn’t the easiest thing to spot with the naked eye, but the researchers suspected they had some sickness on their hands because of the concentration of tiny bones in a small space.

The stack contained the bones of a frog, maybe still a tadpole, and at least one salamander, along with some undetermined vertebrae. Bowfin fish are thought to be the most likely culprit based on previous discoveries at the site, but the prehistoric chunder may have been produced by a fish, turtle, or semi-aquatic animal.

According to John Foster, curator of the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum and co-author of the paper, “We can’t be certain, but of the animals of interest here, the bowfin fish is the current best match, and the one known to be at the location.” Even though we can’t completely rule out other predators, a bowfin is currently our prime suspect.

It’s not exactly obvious why this particular individual’s meal ended up a blob on the fossil record as a regurgitalite rather than a coprolite because a fish may bring up its meal if it has tried to swallow too much or it may even vomit as a distraction method when evading larger predators.

The Jurassic Salad Bar once hosted species interactions comparable to those observed in environments like those on Earth today, as revealed by previous studies.

Foster remarked, “This fossil offers us a unique window into the interactions of the animals in ancient ecosystems. There were three species that are still alive today that interacted in ways that are still common among them, such as prey being consumed by predators and predators possibly being pursued by other predators.