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Monday February 11 11:28 AM ET
Scientists Find Jurassic Age Dinosaur Vomit
LONDON (Reuters) - British scientists said Monday they had discovered what they believed to be the world's oldest fossilized vomit from a large marine reptile that lived 160 million years ago.
Professor Peter Doyle of the University of Greenwich in London said the vomit found in a clay quarry in northern England shed new light on the diet and eating habits of the ichthyosaur -- a Jurassic Age fish-like reptile with a long head, tapered body and four flippers.
``We believe that this is the first time the existence of fossil vomit on a grand scale has been proven beyond reasonable doubt,'' Doyle said.
Other examples of fossilized vomit have been discovered, but Doyle and Dr. Jason Wood of Britain's Open University said their sample was the oldest.
``These are the oldest, definitely,'' Doyle said, adding that there was scientific evidence to back it up.
Doyle and Wood presented their findings at a paleontology conference and plan to submit them for publication in a peer-review journal.
The vomit contains the shells of dozens of belemnites, tiny shellfish that were found in abundance in the water around Britain. They were a staple food for extinct marine reptiles.
The scientists are convinced the sample is vomit because of the way the belemnite shells were scattered in the fossilized sample. A microscopic examination also showed the shells had been etched by stomach acid from the digestive fluid of the marine creatures.
Skeletons of ichthyosaurs with stomach contents intact have previously been found, but the belemnite shells were quite unpalatable and usually expelled from the body.
Doyle said it was unlikely the shells passed through the ichthyosaur's intestines because they would have damaged the soft tissue.
``The only alternative is that the shells were vomited out, in much the same way that modern-day sperm whales regurgitate the indigestible beaks of squid they have eaten,'' he said.
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 11, 2002
Career Day in high school never covered these exciting possibilities when I was a kid.
-- helen (email@example.com), February 11, 2002.
Helen, regarding opening the eyes of students to career possibilities, I remember a truly strange test given to my class in the 9th grade. It indicated that I and many of my classmates should seriously consider careers in social work. Sample question (yes, I exaggerate, but not by much): "Would you rather spend the rest of your life (a) digging ditches, (b) shovelling chicken shit, or (c) doing social work.
-- Peter Errington (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 12, 2002.
Did they boogie til they puked?
-- Root Boy Slim (BoogieBoogie@puke.puke), February 12, 2002.