Taking a Bite Out of Time

Finding any fossilized bone is a fortuitous event. It doesn’t always feel that way when you pass by the hundredth piece of chunkasaurus in the desert, but, given all the circumstances for even part of a bone to be preserved and discovered, even the humblest bone fragment is a wonderful thing. Better still, sometimes paleontologists find fossils on fossils.

University of Tennessee, Knoxville paleontologist Stephanie Drumheller-Horton has quickly become one of the leading experts on these metafossils. In particular, Drumheller-Horton is a wealth of information on bite marks and what they can tell us about the ways prehistoric creatures ate – and sometimes fought – each other. Not to mention that throwing bones to swarms of alligators for science is a pretty cool job.

Naturally, when it came time for me to interview paleontologists at last autumn’s Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in Berlin, I knew I had to talk to Drumheller-Horton about her research. Here’s what she had to say about the way prehistoric crocs and other creatures nommed each other: