August 26th, 2009

aye aye captain
  • drhoz

Fangs For The Memories

Picture the scene... You're out for a midnight swim, and you're suddenly seized from below by a eyeless, boneless, eel-like THING. Pinned in place, it tears you apart with it's 15 viciously serrated jaws, a biological, acid-proof shredding machine.

Of course, this can't happen - because the largest one we know about was only 40cm long. And they've been extinct for almost 200 million years.

The fossils known as conodonts are amazingly common. A bottle of vinegar and a handful of limestone rubble from any rock of the right age is almost bound to include them, and if you live in a good area you can start a collection from your nearest road cutting. Like the forams I talked about earlier, they're vitally important index fossils, with the added advantage that they change colour depending how hot the rocks got in their history. They swarmed in all the world's oceans for some 300 million years.

But until 1983 science had no idea what they were actually from.

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