If you’ve ever had “turducken” (turkey stuffed with duck stuffed with chicken), then you’ll find this story amusing.
Recently, a fossil of a 48-million-year-old snake was found with a fossilized lizard in its belly; and in the lizard’s belly was a fossilized beetle.
“In the year 2009, we were able to recover a [fossil of] an almost fully-preserved snake,” says Dr. Krister Smith of the Department for Messel Research at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt. He continues, ecstatically: “And as if this was not enough, we discovered a fossilized lizard inside the snake, which in turn contained a fossilized beetle in its innards!”
This type of fossil, called a “tripartite” fossil, is extraordinarily rare. Its value to science is immeasurable – this type of fossil is essentially a preserved food chain from the ancient animal kingdom. To date, the only other fossil of this type is that of a 280-million-year-old shark.
The fossilized snake, a distant ancestor to the modern-day boa, is assumed to have died as a juvenile based on its length of 103 cm. Dr. Smith and his team concluded that the snake was inside the lizard by analyzing the snake’s ribcage, which surrounded the lizard’s entire skeleton.
Smith notes that the fossil is important for paleontologists, as it highlights this snake species’ omnivorous diet – a fact previously unknown to science.
On a side note, the fossil looks like it would make a really cool coffee table.
(Photo courtesy Springer Heidelberg via ScienceDaily)