Largest Ichthyosaurus was pregnant at time of death

James Marshall
August 30, 2017

The specimen, the largest representative of the Ichthyosaurus genus on record, was a kind of marine reptile commonly taken to be a swimming dinosaur - but which actually emerged 250 million years back, before the dinosaurs reigned.

Apart from the individual's significant size - estimated to have been between 3 to 3.5 metres long (9.8 to 11.5 ft) when fully extended - the female was also notable for something else: she was pregnant when she died. Ichthyosaurs were a highly successful group of sea-going reptiles that became extinct about 90 million years ago. Thousands of specimens have been found, from isolated bones to complete skeletons.

"It amazes me that specimens such as this [the biggest] can still be "rediscovered" in museum collections", said Lomax in a statement. With ichthyosaur expert Dean Lomax, of the University of Manchester, he examined the specimen and determined that, at more than 10 feet long, this specimen was the largest Ichthyosaurus somersetensis ever found. It was the second new Ichthyosaurus the pair formally claimed this year, bring the total number of species in the genus to seven.

So when another specimen of Ichthyosaurus was unearthed on the coast of England in the 1990s, this new "sea dragon" fossil wasn't considered such an important discovery.

Sachs recruited University of Manchester paleontologist Dean Lomax to assist with a detailed analysis.

The new study revealed a tail from another ichthyosaur was added to the skeleton when it went on display at a museum in Hanover, Germany.

Palaeontologist Sven Sachs saw the fossil on display at a museum in Hannover.

The embryo is incomplete and preserves only a portion of the back bone, a forefin, ribs and a few other bones.

Sven added "It is often important to examine fossils with a very critical eye".

"Sometimes, as in this instance, specimens aren't exactly what they appear to be", Sachs explains in a press release.

The 11ft ichthyosaur lived at the time of the first dinosaurs during the early Jurassic period. "Many examples of Ichthyosaurus are from historical collections and most do not have good geographical or geological records, but this specimen has it all".

The famous fossil hunter Mary Anning discovered the first complete fossil of an ichthyosaur in the cliffs near Lyme Regis, Dorset, in 1810.

Ichthyosaurs are among the common fossil reptiles found in the United Kingdom, with thousands of specimens known.

Her discovery shook up the scientific world and provided evidence for new ideas about the history of the Earth. He contacted United Kingdom palaeontologist, Dean Lomax, who is an expert on Ichthyosaurs.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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