It’s way Old, but what is it Exactly?!

David Ng (Twitter) is a science literacy academic based at the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia. He is currently on sabbatical at London’s Natural History Museum, and encourages you to check out the PHYLO project.

A few weeks ago I had a chance to chat with Paul Taylor in the Paleontology department of the Natural History Museum. I was chatting with him about a curious specimen that has, over the years, gained a little bit of notoriety in the museum’s collection. You see, it was a mystery.

What you’re looking at is a slide of Dinocochlea ingens. On the left, you’ve got the original 1922 paper which detailed the 1921 finding; in the middle, an image from a newspaper of the day (which I think would make a brilliant T-shirt!) depicting the scale of the odd find; and on the far right, you can see a scan of the only photo that records the original “in ground” condition of the specimen.

The history of the find is pretty interesting since the hypotheses that have been given for its identity include (in order of their proposal):

1. It is a fossil of a FREAKISHLY big snail!
2. It is a coprolite, a.k.a the remnant of a giant turd (most likely from an Iguanodon).
3. It is a concretion fossil formed from the indents left underground by a spiraling path of a very small burrowing most likely worm-like organism.



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