Fossil of a hairdresser

October 11, 2008 13:08 by Kate Phillips


Fossilised dinosaur bones with comb for scale

Today I have been writing words that will be part of a new exhibition. It’s a new exhibition with an old theme – dinosaurs and other pre-historic life.  According to my text there is going to be a fossil hairdresser in it. Well it isn’t actually a fossil hairdresser, that’s just what spell check came up with when I typed Hadrosaur. We have this fossil of a Hadrosaur (duck–billed dinosaur) – still embedded in a chunk of rock which came all the way from Alberta, Canada. At the museum it is affectionately called the headless hadrosaur because there is no skull fossil. It does however have imprints of dinosaur skin, and when you think of it, 70 million year old skin is pretty impressive (probably in need of a beauty therapist rather than a hairdresser).  

The collection manager here at the museum is going to look closely around the fossil in the hope of finding some more skin. There are stories of similar fossils where the people preparing them (cleaning away the rock and just leaving the fossil), failed to recognise the skin imprints and destroyed them in the process of getting to the bones. I guess skin imprints are a rare thing and like a lot of palaeontology you really have to know what you are looking for, you must have a mental search pattern. There are lots of stories of things being missed and their significance only being ‘seen’ later. Fossilised embryos are a case in point...but that is another story.