Smithsonian Sparks

This Thanksgiving, try the fossil turducken

November 22, 2021
Hannah S. Ostroff

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Marine reptile with a long tail

Tylosaurus, Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History

Searching for a nontraditional recipe? Here's the fossil version of a turducken.

This 20-foot-long predatory marine reptile Tylosaurus in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History has its last meal in its stomach: a plesiosaur, or flippered marine reptile. The stomach ALSO contained the bones of the plesiosaur’s last meal of small fishes and invertebrates. These specimens provide a glimpse of an 81 to 85 million-year-old food web.

Upper half of a marine reptile with bones visible in its stomach
Tylosaurus, Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History
Small fossil fragments
Fossil stomach contents, Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History

Also, if your Thanksgiving meal includes turkey, then you're serving up some dinosaur. How? Because birds are dinosaurs. Even their hollow bones, feathers and stiff wrists come from their non-avian dinosaur ancestors.

See the fossil turducken and dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes at the “David H. Koch Hall of Fossils - Deep Time,” which covers 4.6 billion years of life on Earth.