A fantastic catch
Fossilized stomach contents are rare in the fossil record but can offer incredibly important insights into the life and death of extinct animals through deep time. While studying fossil fishes in the collections of the Stuttgart Museum, I (Sam Cooper, PhD student, Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History) identified a unique predator-prey association from the Early Jurassic Posidonia Shale (Posidonienschiefer) of southern Germany, consisting of a large bony fish named Pachycormus preserving a large ammonite shell inside of its stomach. The ammonite shell is undigested and well preserved, indicating that the shell was swallowed immediately prior to the fish’s death. Working together with Dr. Erin Maxwell (Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History), we concluded that this unique feeding event was fatal, with the ingestion of the ammonite shell being directly responsible for the fish’s death. Either the shell became trapped in the throat causing the fish to choke and drown, or the sharp edge of the shell tore open the stomach wall causing catastrophic internal bleeding. Either way, it must had been a very unpleasant death.