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Rusophycus 3D Model
CMNH 13573 Rusophycus
Locality: along the Ashtabula River in Plymouth Township, OH
This is a “trace” or ichnofossil. Unlike ordinary fossils, ichnofossils are not casts of the original organism. They are preserved evidence of the organism’s activity. Like leaving a footprint, this specimen left a burrow. The ridge protruding from the top of this slab may look like the fossilized remains of an organism, but it is actually sediment which filled in the semi-circular burrow. If you invert the slab, you’ll see the proper perspective. Paleontologists are not sure exactly what organism left this trace fossil, but they can infer it had a semi-circular shape, similar to a horseshoe crab, based on the burrow. Also complicating our understanding is the lack of any imprint of a tail.
Take a look at the darkened semi-circle on the cross-cut of the slab. It’s actually evidence for another one of these organisms, deposited in the opposite orientation above the main specimen exhibited here!