Did Strychnine Kill the Dinosaurs?

Strychnine structureStrychnine seems to be a commonly searched entry in the ChemSpider database. I am not sure whether that means there are poisoners among the users or whether it is people hoping to find out more about the recent case of a man accused of poisoning his neighbors’ dogs with a gopher bait pesticide containing strychnine. Alternatively, it could be people hoping to learn more about recent research into the unusual poses struck by dinosaur fossils.

Dinosaur fossils always seem to show the creatures “voguing”, as if there were some Jurassic equivalent of the 90s dance craze kicking off some time BC. But, the odd postures of these long-dead animals would actually suggest that they had an agonized death – the wide-open mouth, head thrown back and recurved tail – all point to poisoning, disease, or asphyxiation, according to two Berkeley paleontologists.

The usual explanation for the postures is that the dinosaurs simply died in water and currents dragged their bones into these odd positions and they were frozen in time as sediments settled and fossilization began.

Berkeley veterinarian-turned-paleontologist Cynthia Marshall Faux has seen a lot of animals that have been poisoned, hit by vehicles, or died of painful disease. They often arrive displaying the same postures as these fossils. She believes that the posturing dinosaurs may have met unnatural deaths, choking on volcanic ash, diseased, or poisoned.

The very same posture is seen in several disease states as well as in strychnine poisoning. Srtychnine is a highly bitter alkaloid found in several plant species, but it is its LD50 of approx. 10 mg per kilogram of body weight that points to its highly toxic nature. Strychnine causes muscular convulsions and eventually death through asphyxia or sheer exhaustion. Virtually all articulated fossils of Archaeopteryx have been found with the characteristic posture of the strychnine poisoned. We may never know exactly how these creatures died, but could it be that there was a dinosaur poisoner in the wild during the time of the dinosaurs?

Author: 雷竞技官网

Award-winning freelance science writer, author of Deceived Wisdom. Sharp-shooting photographer and wannabe rockstar.