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Re: Pic of Dino Vomit

    Having had a thorough look at the photo (Click on:
http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99991910 ) of alleged
ichthyosaur regurgitation (I.R.), it is my personal and non-professional --
Are there ANY professional ichthyosaur vomitologistys out there? :-} --
opinion that the whole thing likely is more B.S. (Interpret that
figuratively, please.) than I.R..

    Honestly, isn't it highly questionable that the item is even
regurgitation? (More on that later.) On top of that, the vomit idea is
spoken about so surely that you'd almost think someone actually saw an
ichthyosaur barf up the belemnite remains.  Professor Peter Doyle is quoted
as saying, "We believe that this is the first time the existence of fossil
vomit on a grand scale has been proven beyond reasonable doubt."

    I'd say, "Proven beyond a reasonable doubt?!  Give us a break, Doyle!
Can your supposition be falsified?"

    In the first place, look carefully at the very ordered arrangement of
the belemnite remains.  Most of them lie essentially parallel to each other,
with only rather small degrees of variance, except for a few of them.

    Are we to believe that an ichthyosaur vomited them up in such
organization?  I can't buy that idea at all.  The pattern displayed in the
photographed sample looks more as though a flood surge from, say, a storm,
had washed then  inland from a beach and then they had been caught in
flow-back along an erosional channel.  The organization would, then result
from a natural (gravity fed) flow in the stream channel. I've spent many
hours walking Padre Island, Texas, beaches after hurricanes and other
storms, and have seen precisely that kind of highly organized (parallel)
arrangement in everything from elongated shells to man-made debris, in
flow-back channels after the water has drained back into the Gulf of Mexico.

    By contrast, waves of stomach and esophageal contraction that would
occur in regurgitation would, IMO, produce a contrastingly chaotic tossing
of the shells, with them being vomited out and deposited in a very jumbled

    I promised more, later, on the question of regurgitation:  By
coincidence, when I was in Texas last May, a friend gave me several boxes of
marine fossils (all of them apparently of Cretaceous origin) he no longer
wanted around his apartment.  When I clicked on the above-provided link and
saw the photo of allegedly rare ichthyosaur vomit I almost had to laugh.  In
the box my friend gave me was an item of startlingly identical nature, size
and coloration. When I got it back to Maryland, I showed it to a geologist
friend who is very familiar with marine fossils and to several amateur
marine fossil collectors. All said that finding masses of that type fossil
side-by-side and in parallel and slightly sub-parallel orientations is not
rare at all.  My geologist friend explained how they can easily become
massed and arranged that way by processes such as I have described earlier
in this letter.

    Peter Doyle and company may get a lot of mass media mileage out of this
story, but it would be surprising if such a wide-eyed reception is provided
in peer review.

    The article off Reuters (London) said, "Skeletons of ichthyosaurs with
stomach contents intact have previously been found, but the belemnite shells
were quite unpalatable and usually expelled from the body."

    I'm not sure how we'd know what was and was not palatable to large
marine animals of long ago, and cannot help but wonder what method of
extreme retrospection was used to gather such information.  :-)

    As to the claim that a microscopic examination showed that the shells
had been, "...etched by stomach acid", if the etching is so minute as to be
discernable only by microscope (or even if otherwise), I would challenge the
claimant to demonstrate conclusively how the etching of stomach acids on
such shells is distinguishable from that due to, for example, acids carried
in ground water.  If we're talking of the etching of bones from, say, T rex
stomach acids, then a difference might be clear.

    Furthermore, I'd like to see an independent person or agency collect and
examine (as a control) isolated shell finds of the same type (and from the
same deposit) that would not reasonably be claimed to have been part of a
marine reptile's barf.  I suspect they would show very similar etching.

    What list member Fabio M. Dalla Vecchia has described and referenced is
his posting to this list today is a far different thing and, IMO, vastly
more credible: DALLA VECCHIA F.M., MUSCIO G. & WILD R., 1989 - Pterosaur
remains in a gastric pellet from Upper Triassic (Norian) of Rio Seazza
valley (Udine, Italy). Gortania- Atti Museo Friul. St. Nat., 10(1988):
121-132, Udine.

    Ray Stanford

"You know my method.  It is founded upon the observance of trifles." --
Sherlock Holmes in The Boscombe Valley Mystery

----- Original Message -----
From: "Richard W Travsky" <rtravsky@uwyo.edu>
To: <dinosaur@usc.edu>
Sent: Monday, February 11, 2002 1:57 PM
Subject: Pic of Dino Vomit