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The Weirdest Ways Paleontologists Have Found Fossils


(Unrelated photo by Wilson Hui)

How did the Urinator montanus get its name? The paleontologist Jason Poole was on a dig in Montana in 1999. He need to relieve his bladder, so he found a secluded spot and got down to business.

When he looked down at his target, he realized that it was a fossil. It was an Allosaurus, which he knicknamed Urinator montanus after his method of discovery.

It was a stroke of sheer luck, so don't try to replicate Poole's research. But other scientists have also found fossils through unusual encounters. Smithsonian magazine describes several, such as the Haley O'Brien's pre-menstrual meeting:

While digging at some fossil mammal sites in eastern Africa, O’Brien says, “I was lady-hormone-ing real bad one day and decided the best option was to quietly remove myself from the quarry under the guise of prospecting so I could go nuclear by myself.” This is a part of fieldwork that’s not often talked about. “Your body doesn’t exactly stop functioning when you’re in the field, hormones included,” she says. So O’Brien decided to disappear along a winding riverbed leading away from the excavation.

The local geology was perfect for stress relief. “I followed my way around a river bend to an outcrop that hadn’t produced any fossils for years and started picking up half dollar-sized concretions out of the wall for stress relief,” O’Brien says. Just minutes into this exercise, she plucked out an intact rodent skull, which meant that she would have to call the crew over. O’Brien continued to wander, “trying to put off lady-Def Con 10”, but more plucking and chucking stones only revealed more fossils, some of which became type specimens—or the emblematic representatives—of their species. “It was like a Groundhog Day best-worst fossil-finding PMS-fueled nightmare,” O’Brien says.

-via American Digest


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