Friday, August 9, 2019

Filling in the Fossil Record

By Tyrone Burke
Photos by Chris Roussakis

Hell hunter and devil digger. When Arjan Mann names a species, he doesn’t mess around.

As part of his PhD research into carboniferous period creatures, the Carleton Earth Sciences student identified two new species. The two species date from about 310 million years ago, when the ancestors of modern reptiles, birds and mammals were moving permanently on to land.

The first he named Diabloroter — devil digger. Mann studied the specimen at the Field Museum in Chicago, where it had been preserved in a devilishly red latex peel. Its hard skull is similar in structure to modern animals that burrow, digging into the earth by compacting soil with their heads.

The second of the two creatures was an elongated, short-limbed animal that would have moved by sidewinding — much like a modern snake. He called it Infernovenator (hell hunter) to stick with the hellish theme.

Known as recumbirostrans — or colloquially as microsaurs — the two creatures were preserved in the Francis Creek Shale at Mazon Creek, Illinois. The site is about a 90-minute drive south of Chicago and has been attracting palaeontologists and collectors since the early 1900s. A boom in private collecting that began in the 1960s depleted it of its most obvious specimens and palaeontologists moved along to more productive locations.

Read the full story on the Carleton Newsroom website.

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