Rare 200 million-year-old ichthyosaur species discovered

  03 February 2018    Read: 1523
Rare 200 million-year-old ichthyosaur species discovered
A rare 200 million-year-old ichthyosaur species has been discovered from a private collection, 22 years after it was originally found. 

Ichthyosaurs were a type of sea-going reptiles that lived during the time of the dinosaurs. In 2016, Dean Lomax from the University of Manchester in the UK described an ichthyosaur skeleton that he had examined in the collections of Leicester's New Walk Museum and Art Gallery.

He spotted several unusual features of the bones and determined that the features were unique and represented a new species, which he called Wahlisaurus massarae. "When Wahlisaurus was announced, I was a little nervous about what other palaeontologists would make of it, considering the new species was known only from a single specimen," Lomax said.

"My analysis suggested it was something new, but some palaeontologists questioned this and said it was just 'variation' of an existing species," he said. Lomax then teamed up with fossil collector, Simon Carpenter, of Somerset and rediscovered a specimen. It had an almost complete coracoid bone (part of the pectoral girdle) with exactly the same unique features of the same bone in Wahlisaurus.

The specimen was originally collected in 1996, in a quarry in northern Somerset. The new discovery, published in the Geological Journal, is from a time known as the Triassic-Jurassic boundary, right after a world-wide mass extinction. For these reasons, the researchers have been unable to determine exactly whether the ichthyosaur was latest Triassic or earliest Jurassic in age, although it is roughly 200 million-year-old. 


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