No Minister


A long but very interesting article in the latest National Geographic about the discovery of fossils from a gigantic, swimming dinosaur called Spinosaurus.

This thing appears to have basically been the T Rex of the ancient seas. It was actually ;onger than an adult T Rex, at 16 metre (50 foot) and weighing about seven tonnes. What’s really strange about it though is that it had a large sail on its back and an elongated snout that resembled the maw of a crocodile, with lots of conical teeth.

As is usually the case with dinosaur fossils it turns out that there had been much controversy over exactly what the creature looked like. But things were tougher in this case because the earliest fossils of it – dug up in Egypt between 1910 and 1914 by a Bavarian palaeontologist and aristocrat called Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach (sounds like the start of an Indiana Jones movie) – were lost:

During World War II, Allied bombing prompted Stromer—a critic of the Nazi regime—to beg the museum director to move the fossils to safety. The Nazi director refused, and bombing destroyed the fossils in 1944. Drawings, photos, and descriptions in journal articles were all that remained to prove Stromer’s Spinosaurus fossils ever existed.

Chalk up one more piece of barbarity to the moronic Nazis.

This particular fossil has started to put a lot of those questions to rest. It comes from a sandstone formation called the Kem Kem beds, that starts 200 miles east of Marrakesh in Morocco and extends 150 miles to the southwest. It’s rugged, brutally hot country:

I got a taste for the site’s challenges, and the rush of discovery, when I joined the team in July 2019 for a return expedition. The 117-degree heat and arid winds wicked liters of water from my body as we chipped our way through an outcrop marbled like bacon. Fanned along the outcrop below, Ibrahim’s Detroit Mercy students lugged rocks in buckets made from recycled tires and scoured the debris for even the tiniest flecks of bone.

I have to say that this photo struck me as particularly Indiana Jonesish.

But that image is quickly replaced by this passage:

The 2018 dig started brutally. To clear tonnes of sandstone, the crew bought the region’s only working jackhammer. It broke within minutes. Days were so gruelling that several team members were hospitalised once they returned home.

But the promise of discovery kept them going, along with Nutella breaks that temporarily took their minds off the punishing work. Finally, they started finding one caudal vertebra after another from the animal’s tail, sometimes just minutes and inches apart.

The team was so giddy over the bonanza, they drummed out musical beats with their rock hammers and broke into song, belting out, “It’s another caudal!” to the tune of Europe’s “The Final Countdown.”

Heh. Fucking nerds eh? You have to love them. But read the whole article.

Here’s the song they were singling along to. Personally I always hated it as one of those typical over-produced, Big Hair 80’s “rocker classics”. Barf!

See also:

The Fault In Our Stars

Dinosaur Wars and The Nine Foot Problem.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 20, 2021 at 10:17 am

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