I saw this amazing photo on Palaeoblog, courtesy of the National Geographic Photo Contest 2012. This poor sheep drowned in a meadow canal in southern Jylland, Denmark. Scavengers (most likely birds in the photographer's opinion) had eaten everything above the water, while flesh and wool stayed intact below the water.
Image courtesy of National Geographic Photo Contest 2012.
This image perfectly illustrates just how varied the world of taphonomy is. If this sheep is fossilised as is (with soft tissue mummified), and dug up by future palaeontologists, would they be able to tell that 'dorsal tissue loss via opportunistic birds due to drowning feet-first' happened? I can't imagine trying to propose a scenario like this in a scientific paper: it would seem overly specific, and pretty preposterous.
About the author
Dr Caitlin Syme is a palaeontologist who recently finished her PhD at The University of Queensland, studying the taphonomy (preservation state) of fossil non-avian dinosaurs, crocodiles and fish from the Winton Formation, Queensland, Australia. Think forensic science or CSI for fossils, and you're on the right track!
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