First description of a fossil as a fossil? [A FISH OF COURSE!]

John Bruner jbruner at GPU.SRV.UALBERTA.CA
Fri Jan 7 08:33:10 CST 2000

On Fri, 7 Jan 2000, Thomas Schlemmermeyer wrote:
> Sorry for my curiosity, giving continuity to these nice "the first
> publication..." questions, I would like to know who made the first
> description of a fossil as a fossil (i.e. as a trace of a formerly living
> organism, and not as some strange mineral originating due to some strange,
> universal, seminal laws)?
>    Thomas
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Thomas Schlemmermeyer
> Museu de Zoologia, Universidade de São Paulo
> Caixa Postal 42694
> CEP 04299-970
> São Paulo, SP, Brasil
	The FIRST illustration of a fossil are the woodcuts in Nicholas
Steno's 1667 book [The head of a shark dissected].  Steno served as
physician to the Duke of Florence and was interested in the anatomy of
vertebrate animals.  The fossils in question were the "tongue stones" that
had been dug out of soft rocks in the cliffs from the island of Malta for
centuries and are now known at *Carcharocles megalodon* from the Miocene
and Pliocene.  To Steno, tongue stones were structurally identical with
modern shark teeth because they shared featurews with them that are
lacking in mere stones on the beach.  Steno argued that because the tongue
stones looked like shark teeth, they were shark teeth that somehow had
become embedded in the strata.

This information comes from pp. 114-115 of the following book:
Maisey, John G.  1996.  Doscovering Fossil Fishes.  Henry Holt and
Company.  New York, New York.  223 pp.

* Mr. John C. Bruner                                 *
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