The valuable legacy of Oom Roy’
Roy Oosthuizen ran his family’s sheep farm ‘Zwartskraal’ near Klaarstroom, east of Prince Albert but he was also an avid amateur palaeontologist. Over the course of his lifetime he amassed and meticulously catalogued an impressive collection of fossils which he kept on his farm, each one.
Oosthuizen’s best specimens collected from his and neighbouring farms were displayed in rows of glass cases in a separate little museum he had built at the back of his home.
The collection which included many holotypes (specimens on which the description and name of a new species is based) is now housed in the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town. Several types of fossil bear his name.
Oosthuizen discovered Dwykaselachus oosthuizeni when he split open a nodule of rock on his farm in the 1980s. An initial description was based on material visible at the broken surface of the nodule.
It was carefully archived at the Museum in Cape Town, where it remained until new technology was developed which allowed its longshrouded secrets to be unwrapped.
Researchers recall that Oosthuizen was very attached to his specimens but very generous with his time. Oom Roy, as he was affectionately known, would always be happy to show his collections to anyone who was interested, and regularly collaborated with local and international scientists.
It was only a few years before his death that he was finally persuaded to bequeath his collection to the South African Museum in Cape Town on condition that it would remain as a separate unit within the general fossil collection.
His fossils included complete skeletons of Triassic ‘mammal-like reptiles’ (therapsids) such as Lystrosaurus, skulls of much larger predatory therapsids, the gorgonopsids, a giant sea scorpion nearly two metres long and a large collection of invertebrate fossils of all ages.