Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Exploding dinosaur hypothesis implodes

28.03.2012
Exploding carcasses through putrefaction gases – this is how science explained the mysterious bone arrangements in almost fully preserved dinosaur skeletons for decades.
Now a Swiss-German research team has proved that these carcasses sank to the seabed and did not explode. The sedimentologists and paleontologists from the universities of Zurich and Basel thus dispel the myth of exploding marine reptiles.

The pregnant ichthyosaur female from Holzmaden (Germany) that perished 182 million years ago puzzled researchers for quite some time: The skeleton of the extinct marine reptile is almost immaculately preserved and the fossilized bones of the mother animal lie largely in their anatomical position. The bones of the ichthyosaur embryos, however, are a different story: For the most part, they lie scattered outside the body of the mother. Such peculiar bone arrangements are repeatedly found in ichthyosaur skeletons.

Not exploded: Ichthyosaur female from Holzmaden with scattered embryos outside of the body of the mother. Picture: UZH

According to the broadly accepted scientific doctrine, this is the result of exploding carcasses: Putrefaction gases produced during the decomposition process cause the carcass to swell and burst. Through such explosions, even the bones of embryos can supposedly be ejected out of the body. Based on an elaborate series of measurements and an analysis of the physical-biological parameters, however, a research team of sedimentologists, paleontologists and forensic scientists has now managed to dispel the myth of exploding dinosaur carcasses.

Putrefaction gas pressure not high enough
In order to gauge the pressure of the particular gases that can actually develop inside a putrefying ichthyosaur, the researchers sought comparative models and found one in human corpses: Humans and many ichthyosaur species have a similar size range. Consequently, the formation of similar amounts of putrefaction gas can be expected during decomposition. At the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Frankfurt, Germany, a manometer was inserted into the abdominal cavity through the umbilicus in one hundred corpses.The putrefaction gas pressures measured were only 0.035 bar.

In the case of the ichthyosaur carcasses that came to rest below 50 to 150 meters of water, however, putrefaction gas pressures of over five to 15 bar would have been necessary to cause an explosion. According to Zurich paleontologist Christian Klug, gas pressures of this dimension and therefore actual explosions are impossible: “Large vertebrates that decompose cannot act as natural explosive charges.” And he is convinced: “Our results can be extended to lung-breathing vertebrates in general.”

What actually happened 182 million years ago
According to the researchers, the fate of ichthyosaur carcasses can be reconstructed as follows: Normally, the bodies sank to the seabed immediately post mortem. In very deep, hospitable waters, they were broken down completely through putrefaction,scavengers, bone-destroying organisms and dissolving processes.

In shallower water (up to 50 meters) and a temperature of over four degrees Celsius, however, the corpses often rose back to the surface on account of the putrefaction gases accumulating inside the body. At the surface, exposed to the waves and scavengers, they decomposed within anything from a few days to weeks and the bones were scattered over a wide area on the seabed as they sank.

Ichthyosaur skeletons only remained preserved more or less in their anatomical position under very special circumstances: A lack of oxygen, medium water depths and insignificant bottom water currents. Because only then were the putrefaction gases compressed strongly enough through the high water pressure and dissolved in the bodily fluids, and the carcasses not completely broken down due to a lack of scavengers. The carcass of the ichthyosaur female from Holzmaden thus sank to the bottom of the sea, which was up to 150 meters deep, where it decomposed. In doing so, the decomposed embryo skeletons were transported out of the body of the mother by minor currents at the seabed.

Literature:
Achim G. Reisdorf, Roman Bux, Daniel Wyler, Mark Benecke, Christian Klug, Michael W. Maisch, Peter Fornaro, Andreas Wetzel (2012): Float, explode or sink: post-mortem fate of lung-breathing marine vertebrates. In: Michael Wuttke & Achim G. Reisdorf (eds): Taphonomic processes in terrestrial and marine environments. – Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments, 92(1): 67-81. DOI: 10.1007/s12549-011-0067-z
Contact:
Christian Klug
Paleontological Institute and Museum
University of Zurich
Tel.: +41 76 472 74 34
Email: chklug@pim.uzh.ch
Achim G. Reisdorf
Geologisch-Paläontologisches Institut
University of Basel
Tel.: +41 61 267 36 11
Email: achim.reisdorf@unibas.ch

Nathalie Huber | idw
Further information:
http://www.mediadesk.uzh.ch/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH

nachricht Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>