Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Bug Bites On Dino Bones

A Suite of Dermestid Beetle Traces on Dinosaur Bone from the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation, Wyoming, USA. 2008. B. Britt et al. Ichnos 15: 59–71.

My old friend and fellow former Drumhellerite, Brooks Britt (above), makes the news again

From the press release:

BYU professor Brooks Britt and student Anne Dangerfield have investigated insect traces on the 148-million-year-old remains of a Camptosaurus, a plant-eating specimen discovered in Medicine Bow, Wyo., in 1995.

Their analysis revealed that beetles, from the family entomologists call Dermestidae, left the markings on the Camptosaurus. Dermestid beetles still exist today and are typically brown or black, oval-shaped and feed on flesh, hair, skin or horns of carcasses.

Information about the beetle’s typical habitat reveals the climate at the time of the Camptosaurus’ death probably had 60-80 percent relative humidity and a temperature of 77-86 F. By comparison, the average yearly temperature in Medicine Bow is now 43.5 F.

When the dinosaur died near what is now Medicine Bow, the carcass was consumed by other insects. The beetles then infested the Camptosaurus within months of its death.

In addition to shedding light on Wyoming’s ancient climate, Dangerfield and Britt’s work shows dermestid beetles existed much earlier than previously thought. The traces on this Camptosaurus predate the oldest body fossils for dermestid beetles by 48 million years.

Britt and Dangerfield continued their research by looking at more than 7,000 bones from various quarries and found that insect traces on dinosaur bones are quite common, but dermestid beetle traces were found only on the Camptosaurus skeleton from Medicine Bow.