Giant prehistoric krakens may have sculpted self-portraits using ichthyosaur bones
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[release]For decades, paleontologists have puzzled over a fossil collection of nine Triassic icthyosaurs ([I]Shonisaurus popularis[/I]) discovered in Nevada's Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park. Researchers initially thought that this strange grouping of 45-foot-long marine reptiles had either died en masse from a poisonous plankton bloom or had become stranded in shallow water.
But recent geological analysis of the fossil site indicates that the park was deep underwater when these shonisaurs swam the prehistoric seas. So why were their bones laid in such a bizarre pattern? A new theory suggests that a 100-foot-long cephalopod arranged these bones as a self-portrait after drowning the reptiles. And no, we're not talking about Cthulhu.
After considering [URL="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q36_8s5z6S8"]the more brutal aspects[/URL] of modern octopus predation, paleontologist [URL="http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/facultyprofiles/ma_mcmenamin.html"]Mark McMenamin of Mount Holyoke College[/URL] came to the conclusion that the shonisaur remains had been deposited in a "kraken" lair by its massive, tentacled squatter. From [URL="http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2011AM/finalprogram/abstract_197227.htm"]his abstract[/URL] of research being presented today at The Geological Society of America's annual meeting:
We hypothesize that the shonisaurs were killed and carried to the site by an enormous Triassic cephalopod, a "kraken," with estimated length of approximately 30 m, twice that of the modern Colossal Squid Mesonychoteuthis. In this scenario, shonisaurs were ambushed by a Triassic kraken, drowned, and dumped on a midden like that of a modern octopus. Where vertebrae in the assemblage are disarticulated, disks are arranged in curious linear patterns with almost geometric regularity. Close fitting due to spinal ligament contraction is disproved by the juxtaposition of different-sized vertebrae from different parts of the vertebral column. The proposed Triassic kraken, which could have been the most intelligent invertebrate ever, arranged the vertebral discs in biserial patterns, with individual pieces nesting in a fitted fashion as if they were part of a puzzle. The arranged vertebrae resemble the pattern of sucker discs on a cephalopod tentacle, with each amphicoelous vertebra strongly resembling a coleoid sucker. Thus the tessellated vertebral disc pavement may represent the earliest known self‑portrait.
McMenamin anticipates that this theory will be met with skepticism, as the fleshy body of a giant Triassic octopus wouldn't fossilize well. But the possibility of finding that which is essentially a gargantuan mollusk's macaroni illustration? That's the kind of glorious crazy you hope is reality.[/release]
[URL="http://www.geosociety.org/news/pr/11-65.htm"]Geological Society of America[/URL]
[release]Boulder, CO, USA - Long before whales, the oceans of Earth were roamed by a very different kind of air-breathing leviathan. Snaggle-toothed ichthyosaurs larger than school buses swam at the top of the Triassic Period ocean food chain, or so it seemed before Mount Holyoke College paleontologist Mark McMenamin took a look at some of their remains in Nevada. Now he thinks there was an even larger and more cunning sea monster that preyed on ichthyosaurs: a kraken of such mythological proportions it would have sent Captain Nemo running for dry land. McMenamin will be presenting the results of his work on Monday, 10 October at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Minneapolis.
The evidence is at Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park in Nevada, where McMenamin and his daughter spent a few days this summer. It’s a site where the remains of nine 45-foot (14-meter) ichthyosaurs, of the species [I]Shonisaurus popularis [/I]can be found. These were the Triassic’s counterpart to today’s predatory giant squid-eating sperm whales. But the fossils at the Nevada site have a long history of perplexing researchers, including the world’s expert on the site: the late Charles Lewis Camp of U.C. Berkeley.
“Charles Camp puzzled over these fossils in the 1950s,” said McMenamin. “In his papers he keeps referring to how peculiar this site is. We agree, it [I]is [/I]peculiar.”
Camp’s interpretation was that the fossils probably represented death by an accidental stranding or from a toxic plankton bloom. But no one had ever been able to prove that the beasts died in shallow water. In fact more recent work on the rocks around the fossils suggest it was a deep water environment, which makes neatly arranged carcasses even more mysterious.
This question -- shallow or deep ocean death -- is what attracted McMenamin to the site.
“I was aware that anytime there is controversy about depth, there is probably something interesting going on,” McMenamin said. And when they arrived at the remote state park and started looking at the fossils, McMenamin was struck by their strangeness.
“It became very clear that something very odd was going on there,” said McMenamin. “It was a very odd configuration of bones.”
First of all, the different degrees of etching on the bones suggested that the shonisaurs were not all killed and buried at the same time. It also looked like the bones had been purposefully rearranged. That it got him thinking about a particular modern predator that is known for just this sort of intelligent manipulation of bones.
“Modern octopus will do this,” McMenamin said. What if there was an ancient, very large sort of octopus, like the kraken of mythology. “I think that these things were captured by the kraken and taken to the midden and the cephalopod would take them apart.”
In the fossil bed, some of the shonisaur vertebral disks are arranged in curious linear patterns with almost geometric regularity, McMenamin explained.The proposed Triassic kraken, which could have been the most intelligent invertebrate ever, arranged the vertebral discs in double line patterns, with individual pieces nesting in a fitted fashion as if they were part of a puzzle.
Even more creepy: The arranged vertebrae resemble the pattern of sucker discs on a cephalopod tentacle, with each vertebra strongly resembling a coleoid sucker. In other words, the vertebral disc “pavement” seen at the state park may represent the earliest known self portrait.
But could an octopus really have taken out such huge swimming predatory reptiles? No one would have believed such a tale until the staff of the Seattle Aquarium set up a video camera at night a few years ago to find out what was killing the sharks in one of their large tanks. What they were shocked to discover was that a large octopus they had in the same tank was the culprit. The video of one of these attacks is available on the web to anyone who uses the search terms “shark vs octopus.”
“We think that this cephalopod in the Triassic was doing the same thing,” said McMenamin. Among the evidences of the kraken attacks are many more ribs broken in the shonisaur fossils than would seem accidental and the twisted necks of the ichthyosaurs. “It was either drowning them or breaking their necks.”
Of course, it’s the perfect Triassic crime because octopuses are mostly soft-bodied and don’t fossilize well. Only their beaks, or mouth parts, are hard and the chances of those being preserved nearby are very low. That means the evidence for the murderous Kraken is circumstantial, which may leave some scientists rather skeptical. But McMenamin is not worried.
“We’re ready for this,” he said. “We have a very good case.[/release]
I can't pun this.
i am so fucking glad they are extinct right now
I expected more people to come in here and try their hand at kraken jokes.
Someone do a Cthulhu pun, I can't think of any
What a crakin' discovery.
the pictures looks just like krakin the walls.
Maybe it's the ceph from Crysis?
I want a pet Kraken.
30 m?!?!?!? :aaa:
Things like this are why the depths of the ocean terrify me.
[QUOTE=Lambeth;32725712]Someone do a Cthulhu pun, I can't think of any[/QUOTE]
I'd try, but it would be r'lyeh bad.
Self-portrait? But how did it know what it looked like? Did it have a mirror?
It is pretty creepy actually, intelligent animals always creep me out. Especially when they're bigger than me.
Good thing it's dead.
shit I don't know any Cthulu jokes
sounds like he krak'd the case
30 meters long? And it killed bus-sized ichtyosaurs with ease to create "art" from their remains? That's the fucking stuff of nightmares.
images of Cthulhu making macaroni pictures :v:
[QUOTE=Mad Chatter;32725709]I expected more people to come in here and try their hand at kraken jokes.[/QUOTE]
I am KRAKEN up right now at this :v:
Bunch of circles on the ground?
Must be sentient Kraken artists.
[QUOTE=bobsmit;32727155]Bunch of circles on the ground?
Must be sentient Kraken artists.[/QUOTE]
Oh god it must have been aliens! :v:
Damn pre-history, why you so scary?
For some reason I think of reapers when I read this.
[b]"Release the Kraken!"[/b]
Oh fuck it's cthulhu!
Glad to see more science sensationalism here. Been lacking in the science news this past week or 2.
Need moar faster than light neutrinos.
Maybe time travel?
Even dead gods can draw self portraits.
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