Long term readers will be familiar with my post on decaying donkeys in Mexico (that also prompted this diagnosis for palaeontologists) and this summer in Inner Mongolia brought me another large mammalian carcass – a camel. Thankfully this did not smell as bad as I had feared but nevertheless I did not get too close and only took a couple of photos with the better one shown here.
The point I want to highlight here is the way the fur has stripped off of the skin leaving huge patches bare. Given the way things had gone already it would not be a surprise if most of the rest of it went before the skin decayed to any significant effect. While obviously there are no big predators out in this part of the desert, there are foxes and various birds of prey (as well as smaller scavengers and insects) that might have had an effect though the animal could only have been dead a few days since I had been to that spot before previously when it was not present.
Interestingly this contrasts sharply with the effect we see in birds, (which I don’t have any photos for), whereby the feathers stay articulated with the skeleton long after the skin itself has gone. One study found that feathers could stay on the carcass even after 3 months of the body floating at sea. Unlike mammalian fur at least, they don’t come off easily and should be considered when comparing fossil remnants from exceptional deposits like Liaoning.
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