Writing with Jurassic ink, reported in BBC News and Times Online 19 August 2009.

British palaeontologists have found the perfectly preserved squid and squid ink sac in Jurassic rocks in Wiltshire, England. The squid ink was solidified, but so well preserved the scientists were able to liquefy it using an ammonia solution and use it to draw a picture of the squid and write its name: Belemnotheutis antiques.

The excavation was led by Phil Wilby of the British Geological Survey, who described the fossil: “It’s among the world’s best fossil preservation. It’s a squid-like creature, but it’s not like anything we have in the world today. You really don’t imagine anything so soft could be so well preserved three dimensionally. It still looks as if it is modern squid ink. It’s absolutely incredible to find something like this. We felt that drawing the animal with it would be the ultimate self-portrait.”

The squid was found among numerous other extremely well preserved soft bodied animals. Wilby explained: “About 155 million years ago, millions of these animals were dying in this precise area. We don’t know why that is. In normal circumstances, the decomposition process means only the hard parts of animal are preserved, such as the bones, shell and teeth. The odds of this find are easily a billion to one and probably much greater. We call it the Medusa effect: specimens turn to stone within a matter of days, before the soft parts can be eaten away. I hope the discovery will help us better understand why things are fossilised in this way – what it is about the area that allows it to happen so quickly. Throughout the world there are perhaps a few dozen examples of soft parts being preserved, but this is really special. I can dissect them as if they are living animals. You can even tell whether it was a fast or slow swimmer, by looking at all the muscle fibres.”


Editorial Comment: It is good to see that scientists are admitting that such fine preservation could only happen if the creature was fossilised rapidly before any degradation of the tissue structure took place. However, it is most unlikely that it died in the water and then got buried. The fact that is was found amongst a whole lot of other similarly preserved fossils, indicates it was caught up in a catastrophic upheaval which swept up a lot of sea creatures mixed then with sediment and dumped them.

It is also most unlikely that the ink was still inside the ink sac and could be reconstituted by simply liquefying it in ammonia after 155 million years. The fresh state of this ink indicates it wasn’t buried all that long ago. Altogether this fossil fits better into the Biblical catastrophic history of the world, rather than slow gradual evolution and the long slow fossilisation stories often repeated in high school textbooks. 

Evidence News 2 September 2009