Mysterious 'Godzillus' fossil find stumps scientists

An amateur paleontologist discovered an unusual fossil last year. Now experts are attempting to determine its identity.

AP Photo/The Cincinnati Enquirer, Gary Landers
In this photo, amateur paleontologist Ron Fine, of Dayton, Ohio, discusses the fossil he discovered with professors of geology at the University of Cincinnati. Experts are trying to figure out what the 450 million-year-old fossil dubbed "Godzillus" once was.

Animal, vegetable, or mineral? A new fossil find brings new meaning to the old guessing game.

The humongous, ancient discovery was unearthed last year in Northern Kentucky by amateur paleontologist Ron Fine. Fine is a member of the Dry Dredgers, an association of amateur paleontologists based at the University of Cincinnati.

The trouble is, no one seems to be able to identify the 450-million-year-old giant.

“We are looking for people who might have an idea of what it is,” Ben Dattilo, an assistant professor of geology at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, told the Dayton Daily News

The Cincinnati region was once covered by shallow seas, so it's a good place to find fossils. Because of these favorable conditions, the area has been well studied in the past, making the sizable new find even more impressive.

"When I finally finished it was three-and-a-half feet wide and six-and-a-half feet long," Fine told Discovery News. "In a world of thumb-sized fossils, that's gigantic!"

Fine said that in 39 years of fossil collecting, he'd never needed to excavate before this find. It took him 12 trips to the dig site to completely remove the 150-pound mystery beast. "This fossil just kept going, and going, and going," he said.

Characteristics other than size also set this find apart from previous discoveries. It has an unusual texture, created by a directional pattern on its surface. It was also found with small animal fossils attached to it. These small animals, known as trilobites, may provide clues necessary for the fossil's eventual identification.

On Tuesday, scientists at a Geological Society of America meeting in Dayton, Ohio, Fine's hometown had a viewing of the fossil. The experts in attendance voted on an assortment of theories to explain the specimen.

"It's definitely a new discovery, " David L. Meyer, a geologist at the University of Cincinnati,  told Discovery News. "And we're sure it's biological. We just don't know yet exactly what it is."

Fine and the other researchers involved in the project are considering nicknaming the organism, whatever it is, "Godzillus."

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