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Largest fossil of Ichthyosaurus discovered accidentally in Museum

The study regarding the specimen was published on 28 August 2017 in the scientific journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.

Aug 30, 2017 15:55 IST
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Scientists from the United Kingdom and Germany have discovered the largest Ichthyosaurus on record. They also found that the Ichthyosaurus was pregnant at the time of its death.

Paleontologist Sven Sachs of the Bielefeld Natural History Museum in Germany had spotted the specimen on-display at the Lower Saxony State Museum. He then informed University of Manchester palaeontologist and ichthyosaur expert, Dean Lomax. They examined the new specimen in early 2017. They identified it as an example of an Ichthyosaurus somersetensis.

The study regarding the specimen was published on 28 August 2017 in the scientific journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.

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Key highlights

The new specimen is estimated to be between 3 and 3.5 m long and is an adult female.

Ichthyosaurs were a highly successful group of sea-going reptiles that became extinct about 90 million years ago.

Often misidentified as swimming dinosaurs, these reptiles appeared before the first dinosaurs had evolved.

The new specimen was originally discovered on the Somerset coast, during the mid-1990s, and is from the Early Jurassic era. However, the specimen remained unstudied until it showed up in the collections of the Lower Saxony State Museum in Hannover, Germany.

The specimen provides new insights into the size range of the species, but also records only the third example of an Ichthyosaurus known with an embryo.

The embryo is incomplete and preserves only a portion of the back bone, a forefin, ribs and a few other bones. The preserved string of vertebrae is less than 7 cm long. The bones of the embryo are not fully ossified.

The tail of this new specimen did not belong with the rest of the skeleton.

Ichthyosaurus is one of the most common fossil reptiles in the UK, with thousands of specimens known, ranging from isolated bones to complete skeletons.

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