A 280 million year old fossil with skin remaining turned out to be a fabricated fake

Fossils of paleontological creatures, which leave traces of soft tissues such as scaly skin and are considered to be extremely valuable specimens that tell us what early reptiles looked like before the appearance of dinosaurs, have been discovered by ``digging out rocks and then burning them.'' It turned out to be a fake item made from bones and coated with paint. Although it is not well preserved, scientists are hopeful that they can use the latest technology to analyze the fossil, as parts of the skeleton beneath the paint may be real.

Forged soft tissues revealed in the oldest fossil reptile from the early Permian of the Alps - Rossi - 2024 - Palaeontology - Wiley Online Library


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The specimen that turned out to be a fabricated specimen is a fossil of an ancient creature called Tridentinosaurus antiquus that lived in the Permian period. This specimen, discovered in the Alps in 1931, clearly shows the contours of its body and the shapes of its limbs.

Due to its unique state of preservation, Tridentinosaurus fossils have often been introduced in books, but detailed analyzes using modern technology have not been conducted, making it difficult to determine which lineage of reptiles this fossil belongs to. It was not clear whether that was the case.

Regarding this fossil, Valentina Rossi, a palaeontologist at University College Cork, said, ``Soft tissue fossils are rare, and if a fossil is discovered, it will reveal important information such as body color, external appearance, and internal physiological and anatomical structure.'' And the answers to all our questions were right in front of us. So we studied this fossil specimen in detail and did everything we could to uncover its secrets. We had to, including facts we probably didn't want to know.'

Mr. Rossi's research team, who immediately started a detailed analysis of the Tridentinosaurus fossil, first conducted a preliminary investigation using ultraviolet light scanning. The results showed that the entire Tridentinosaurus fossil had been treated with a coating material.

Coating specimens with varnish or lacquer was a standard method in ancient fossil surveys, and is still sometimes used today when preserving fossils as exhibits in museums. Therefore, the research team used

scanning electron microscopy energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDX) and micro X-ray diffraction (μ- Samples taken from fossils were analyzed using techniques such as XRD) , Raman spectroscopy , and attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR) .

As a result, it turned out that what was under the coating was ``bone black'', a synthetic pigment made from scorched animal bones, a paint often used in historical paintings.

However, this fossil is not a complete fake, and the bones of the hind limbs, especially the femoral bones, are thought to be real, although they are poorly preserved. Furthermore, further analysis revealed that there is a dermal plate , a small bone-like scale similar to those found in crocodiles, in the area thought to correspond to the back.

In light of this, the person who created this specimen did not try to fabricate a fake fossil, but rather discovered the hind leg bone, dug it into the shape of a lizard to emphasize the rest, and then painted it. The research team speculates that this may have been the case.

Commenting on the research, Rossi said, ``I felt a little sad because the story has completely changed, but we are still keeping an eye on this reptilian creature.'' talked.

in Science,   Creature, Posted by log1l_ks