Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Plant or Bone?

Today was a more realistic experience of field work in Scotland: it rained, it shone, it hailed, it shone, it poured, it shone.

Davide and I hide under an outcrop during a downpour.

When searching for fossils, it can be hard to tell the difference between veins of minerals, fossil plant material, or fossil bones. Minerals are all well and good, and I'm not turning my nose up at a nice Mesozoic plant fragment, but the real stars are the bones. On field trips, a great deal of time is spent trying to tell if the intriguingly shaped rock you just came across is something to get excited about or not.

To give you an idea of how tricky it is, let's play a little game. It's called Plant or Bone? Below are some pictures I took the beach here in Skye. Can you tell which ones are fossil bone, and which are fossil plants? (Answers at the end)
1. Looks interesting, but are they bone?
2. Plant or bone? You tell me.
3. Amazing bones... Or just some plant material?
4. Black blob thing.
5. In the shadow of the limpets.
6. A jaw, some ribs, or plant junk?
It takes a while to 'get your eye in' as they say, but once you get the hang of it you start to find things everywhere. Most of it is the same old stuff, but what a palaeontologist is always hoping for is to discover those rare excellent specimens. New species, uncommon ones, something that tells us more about the elusive Middle Jurassic. Fingers crossed this trip will yield some good material to share with the world and make our picture of Mesozoic Skye a little clearer.

Answers: 1. Boring plants; 2. Stunning bone! A shark dorsal fin spine, embedded in the rock; 3. Plants, bleargh; 4. Bone! This one is probably a shark spine too; 5. Bone! Unsure what it is, but certainly bone; 6. Plant again, ah well.

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