The valu­able legacy of Oom Roy’

Grocott's Mail - - OUTSIDE -

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.

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