Oldest fossil reptile from Italians alps partly forged, finds study – Times of India


NEW DELHI: Scientists have recently discovered that a 280-million-year-old fossil, believed to be a member of the reptile group, may have been partly forged. This revelation, published in the journal Palaeontology, has raised concerns about the accuracy of previous research conducted using this fossil.
The fossil,called Tridentinosaurus antiquus, was found in the Italian Alps back in 1931.It was initially thought to be a significant specimen for understanding the evolution of early reptiles. The fossil’s body outline, appearing dark against the surrounding rock, was even interpreted as preserved soft tissues, leading to its classification as a member of the reptile group Protorosauria.
However, a new study has revealed that the fossil is primarily just black paint on a carved lizard-shaped rock surface. Despite being celebrated and discussed in articles and books, the fossilized skin has never been thoroughly examined.
The researchers conducted microscopic analysis and discovered that the texture and composition of the material did not match genuine fossilized soft tissues. They also used ultraviolet (UV) photography to determine that the entire specimen had been treated with some form of coating material. In the past, coating fossils with varnishes or lacquers was common practice to preserve them in museum cabinets and exhibits.
The team’s findings indicate that the body outline of the fossil was artificially created to enhance the appearance of the fossil. This deception had misled previous researchers, urging caution when using this specimen in future studies.
According to the research, while the body outline may have been forged, the bones of the hindlimbs, particularly the femurs, appear to be genuine, although poorly preserved. Additionally, the researchers discovered the presence of small bony scales, called osteoderms, on what is believed to be the back of the animal.
“The peculiar preservation of Tridentinosaurus had puzzled experts for decades. Now, it all makes sense. What was described as carbonized skin is just paint,” said study co-author Professor Evelyn Kustatscher.
This research involved contributors from the University of Padua, Museum of Nature South Tyrol, and the Museo delle Scienze in Trento, all based in Italy.
(With inputs from agencies)


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