Tetrapod Zoology

Some fossil tetrapod thing

Here’s a fossil I described recently. Does anyone want to have a go at identifying it? Don’t worry, I know what it is (or, at least, I and my colleagues think I do), but why not go ahead and have fun. Note the scale bar…

i-ef35eb80c17b2672c823bfbec790c599-that fossil resized 1.jpg

Here’s a close-up of part of it…

i-be3c77e53a87791bfe114e70885b2c0d-part of that fossil resized.jpg

Coming next: SEA MONSTER WEEK!


  1. #1 Mike Keesey
    July 5, 2008

    A eumaniraptor eating a snake?

  2. #2 Neil
    July 5, 2008

    based purely on what I assume is a head and long neck (assuming thare all neck vertebrae) on the right and those claws I’ll go with a pterosaur (not with that skull) or a bird/bird-like dinosaur. A bit vague I know, but Im not a VERTEBRATE Palaeontologist! lol

  3. #3 Neil
    July 5, 2008

    Theaboves meant to read “I’ll go with a pterosaur (but I’m not sure with that skull)”

  4. #4 Tygo Raxx, III
    July 5, 2008

    is it a baby gorgonopsian? maybe an embryo?

  5. #5 DDeden
    July 5, 2008

    Sumus Fossilorious Tetrapodius Thingosaurus

    ooooh sea monsters! (not loch-lake-muck monsters, mind you)

  6. #6 Dave Howlett
    July 5, 2008

    By the size it is either a VERY small adult or more likely a juvenile/baby…..from the claws it could well be a maniraptoran – possibly troodontid or archaeoptergyd?

  7. #7 Adam Pritchard
    July 5, 2008

    That close-up of the hand is interesting, and certainly looks like a maniraptoran theropod, and, if I’m not mistaken, those jaws seem edentulous. Those wouldn’t be integument impressions along that arm, would they? Has this description appeared in print yet?

    I’ll say this: it’s teeny.

  8. #8 Sven DiMilo
    July 5, 2008


  9. #9 AnJaCo
    July 5, 2008

    Teeny is right.
    Broadish skull, strong powerful grasping feet with some curvy claws. Probably spent some time in trees. No obvious ossified sternum, although it could be there in the jumble of torso bits.
    Where’s the hi-res pic?
    My guess is a young predatory bird of some sort, like an owl or hawk.

  10. #10 Dr Vector
    July 5, 2008

    Clearly the edentulous instar of the Lesser Bandy-Legged Hellasaur.

    Either that, or an oviraptorosaur of some kind. That neck looks Khaan-ish.

  11. #11 Adam Pritchard
    July 5, 2008

    Hmmm…so I feel like a dink…those are some graspy-looking feet. The curvy claws actually look something like those on Epidendrosaurus, but I think I’ll definitely change my guess to a raptorial bird. It’s tough to tell what’s going on with the jumble of elements at the bottom.

  12. #12 Jenny Islander
    July 5, 2008

    Something about the articulation says small bird caught by large bird, who sat on a branch picking out the good bits and dropping the other pieces in a pile. I’ve seen similar messes underneath an eagle tree.

  13. #13 Zach Miller
    July 5, 2008

    Look at that limb–one of the toes opposes the others. At least, that’s what it looks like! It’s very tiny, so I’m going to go with “baby animal.” The claws are too big to be an epidendrosaur (also, I think it’s a foot). The opposable toe says “bird,” but I don’t think the two belong together. That limb is WAY too big for that head and vertebral series.

  14. #14 Stewart Macdonald
    July 6, 2008

    Is a ‘zentimeter’ approximately equal to a centimetre?


  15. #15 Diego
    July 6, 2008

    “Is a ‘zentimeter’ approximately equal to a centimetre?”

    More or less, Stewart, but only when you are in a relaxed and meditative state of mind.

  16. #16 Hai~Ren
    July 6, 2008

    It’s a ropen that died with an albino squirrel in its claws!

    Okay, I have no idea what that is, but… drepanosaur?

  17. #17 Nathan Myers
    July 6, 2008

    Vertebrae! I see vertebrae!

  18. #18 Tengu
    July 6, 2008

    Its a very fine matrix, so I thought `Chinese birdie`
    The small size, delicate bones and claws seem to hold that out, or at least a dino bird.

    It looks rather rotted and fragmentray though, pooh!

  19. #19 Jaime A. Headden
    July 6, 2008

    There are what appear to by hypapophyses in the mid-to-anterior cervical vertebrae, which given the construction of the skull and it’s size, the size of the pes, and the general morphology make me think it’s a Paleogene or possibly Neogene avian.

    With big feet. I will pass of the romantic impression of a fossil jacana for now, given the curvature of the claws. The hallux (I am assuming the smaller opposing digit is a hallux due to its position and size, as well as appearing to compose only two phalanges) looks to be almost 1/3 the other digit, which appears to be a pd4.

    The term “zentimeter” is German, which makes me think of the Messel beds.

  20. #20 Adam
    July 6, 2008

    There is no reason to suppose its Mesozoic, and the anatomy seems to show a crown-group avian. The neck need not be so long either since the wings and ribs appear to be missing and the strong kink is the cervico-dorsal transistion. Given the broad short skull I’ll tentatively go with a caprimulgiform (nightjar)of some sort but I know next to nothing of these derived dinosaurs.

  21. #21 David Marjanovi?
    July 6, 2008

    It’s a bird with the ability to perch. The thing with the claws is a foot.

    It’s from Germany, judging from the ruler.

    It’s not from Messel. The rock at Messel is dark brown.

    If it’s Solnhofen or the like, Nature Publishing Company will sue your ass, and then the rest of you, for leaking the picture during the embargo.

    The sediment at Frauenweiler, where Eurotrochilus comes from, is dark grey…

  22. #22 John Conway
    July 6, 2008

    Hai~Ren claims this to be a Ropen. He is very much mistaken, because this animal is clearly dead, and ropens are very much ALIVE.

    This animal is the Seething Swan of Satan!

  23. #23 Ville Sinkkonen
    July 6, 2008

    It’s a plane it’s a superman, NO it’s a bird!
    And that’s as far as my identificationcan go.

  24. #24 Brian
    July 6, 2008

    Is it one of those Palaeogene coraciiforms with raptorial feet?

  25. #25 Jerzy
    July 6, 2008

    Basilisk, of course.

    Snake forebody, foot of a bird. And everything around turned into stone.

  26. #26 Domenico
    July 6, 2008

    It could be some sort of Lacertidae ??

  27. #27 Tim Morris
    July 6, 2008

    The verts look dinosaurian, but wow, what a neck.

    A sea-serpent?

  28. #28 Mark Lees
    July 6, 2008

    An interesting and teasing puzzle. The short answer is ‘I don’t know’, but I can’t leave it at that, so…

    I thought of a young/small enantiornithine or the like from China. Possibly Liaoxiornis (if that genus is valid) because of the small size. But it looks to me like it belongs in neoaves rather than one of the archaic bird groups.

    So I think this is a ‘modern’ bird, probably from a paleogene laggerstatten. Since the text on the scale is in German, I’ll guess one of the Eocene german sites, Messel being the obvious choice. David Marjanović’s comment about the colour of Messel rocks being dark brown may well be generally true (indeed most of those I can find pictures of are a fairly dark) but there are exceptions – and a brief search turned up several examples of Messel fossils where the matrix is coloured similarly to the one in Darren’s picture.

    The picture reminds me of something I have seen in one of Gerald Mayr’s papers, but a search of those available to me couldn’t locate it or anything close. I was particularly thinking of some of the extinct paleogene coraciiform and Cypselomorph groups, and looked at pictures of several fossils of these and none looked right.

    Since Darren states this is a fossil he has “described recently” – I assume he has bloged about this one already (unless he meant descibed officially in a journal).

    Taking this evidence altogether (German Eocene + Darren has blogged on them + heavy claws, proportionately thicker than for a raptor + skull neither too deep nor with a long beak) the best fit I can come up with is an ameghinornithid, but to be honest if that scale in the picture is accurate the fossil seems way too small – I thought ameghinornithids were 40-50cm long, I doubt this bird would be half that even after a good intensive stretching session on the rack.

    Now if this were a maths exam i’d probably get a couple of marks for my workings even if the answer is way out. :)

    “SEA MONSTER WEEK” – is that cryptozoology or more ichthysaurs – please let it be both.

  29. #29 neil
    July 6, 2008

    Strigogyps? or something of that ilk? I believe you’ve hinted about undescribed European pseudo-phorusrhacids in the past…

  30. #30 Gavin
    July 9, 2008

    Clearly it is yet another test of faith from our Lord.

  31. #31 Graham King
    July 11, 2008

    Wow! A new species of centaur!

    From the left: the robust hind- and fore-legs are obvious (though contorted and incomplete); the major ribcage (subthorax) and horizontal portion of the backbone are not well-seen, but are likely embedded deeper in the matrix awaiting preparation. Or possibly in the counterpart slab?
    But we see clearly here the most striking feature, the novel serpentine superthorax, gracile (reduced?) forelimbs, long neck, and dolicocephalic head (at upper right) complete with spiny horns (antennae? -a fairy centaur? -an Andorian alien centaur?). And – is that a curved bow and a spear preserved with it, one to each side? What a find!

    An unusual and noteworthy high point to your career thus far, Darren. Your reputation and fortune are secure!

    Have you named it yet? I wait with bated breath…

    Of course, as a centaur, it’s a hexapod.. not a tetrapod at all.. and thus, off-topic.

  32. #32 Graham King
    July 11, 2008

    Oh.. I “just noticed the scale bar.. “Zentimeter”?
    I’ll just assume that translates as ‘Atlantean cubit’.

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.