Remember the still-preserved 99 million-year old dinosaur wings with their feathers intact? Well this time around, as part of a new research, a team of paleontologists have discovered an incredibly unusual fossil of an insect inside a lizard inside a snake. Dating back around 48 million years, the bizarre fossil remains were uncovered in what was once a prehistoric volcanic lake.
Unearthed in a deserted quarry called the Messel Pit in the southwestern part of Germany, this amazing find is the second of its kind in the entire world to contain fossilized remains of three different organisms, one inside the other. Speaking about the discovery, Krister Smith, a paleontologist at Germany-based Senckenberg Institute, said:
It’s probably the kind of fossil that I will go the rest of my professional life without ever encountering again, such is the rarity of these things. It was pure astonishment.
According to the researchers, the most likely scenario would have involved an ancient iguana that ate a small, shiny insect, before being swallowed headfirst by a young snake approximately two days later. Although it is not yet known how the snake eventually died, the team believes that the reptile met its end in a deep volcanic lake.
After its death, the creature’s corpse quite possibly slid to the bottom of the lake, where it lay preserved for several million years. Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that researchers have uncovered prehistoric fossils with multiple animals inside one another. Jason Head, a professor of paleontology at the University of Cambridge, was reported saying:
To see this kind of trophic scale recorded within the gut of a snake is a very cool thing.
In 2009, a team in Austria discovered a well-preserved 250 million-year-old fossil of a shark, which surprisingly contained an amphibian inside it. The amphibian, as it turns out, had earlier feasted on a smaller fish. Such finds, according to scientists, represents the hierarchical nature of the food chain, even during prehistoric times.
What is even more surprising is the fact that this is not the first time that an ancient fossil has been found in the Messel Pit. In the past, researchers unearthed what is now known as the Darwinius masillae fossil. Talking about the current discovery, which was recently published in the Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments journal, Agustín Scanferla, one of the members of the team, added:
This fossil is amazing. We were lucky men to study this kind of specimen.
The article was originally published in our sister-site HEXAPOLIS.