New Species Of Jurassic Reptile Discovered Thanks To Fossil Skeleton Stored In Bristol

Posted: Oct 10 2016, 7:37am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 10 2016, 7:43am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 

New Species of Jurassic Reptile Discovered Thanks to Fossil Skeleton Stored in Bristol
Credit: University of Bristol
 

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Scientists found a new species of Ichthyosaur which lived around 200 million years ago in the early Jurassic period

Scientists have determined that that an ancient skeleton that had been lying in a British university for around a century belonged to a previously unknown species of extinct reptile.

The newly identified species is actually an Ichthyosaur, a kind of reptile that ruled the oceans while dinosaurs dominated the land. Ichthyosaurs could grow up to 15 meters long and resembled modern-day sharks or dolphins.

At roughly 200 million years old, the reptile lived in oceans during the early Jurassic period – a period which was characterized by the evolution of dinosaurs and marine reptiles.

The skeleton was originally owned by a fossil collector named Joseph Chaning Pearce who sold it the museum in 1915. The museum then dominated it to Bristol University in 1930 where it kept at the storage facility of the university for years and obviously they did not realize the magnitude of what they have had in their fossil collection at that time. 

It took 80 years to bring the fossil into the spotlight and to recognize at as a separate species. The conclusion was based on the fossil remains of skulls and fins, which were found to be different from any other documented species of Ichthyosaur.

“It’s quite amazing – hundreds of people must walk past this skeleton every day, yet its secrets have only just been discovered.” Dean Lomax from University of Manchester said.

The new species of Ichthyosaurus has been named Ichthyosaurus larkini to honor a veteran British paleontologist Nigel Larkin. The larkin means “fierce,” which also makes it a fitting name for an extinct fearsome predator. 

The finding will help understand ocean dwelling reptiles in general and those living in Britain in particular.

“Ichthyosaurs, with their similarities to both modern fish and dolphins, are among the more arresting and captivating fossil specimens known; we are very lucky to have two such specimens on display in the Wills Memorial Building, as part of the University of Bristol School of Earth Sciences Collection,” said Jonathan Hanson, Practical Manager from the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol.

“There is no greater honour for a fossil than to be named as a type specimen for a species, and we are very happy to meaningfully contribute to the understanding of the history of life on Earth by supporting the discovery of Ichthyosaurus larkini.”

 

 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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