New ichthyosaur species discovery in England


This video from Britain says about itself:

10 October 2017

A new species of a marine [reptile] has been discovered from a fossil which has been stored in the University of Nottingham’s engineering collection for more than 50 years. The fossil was of a type of ichthyosaur, a [group of] sea-dwelling animals which grew to up to 16 metres in length and survived until around 90 million years ago.

It has today been announced as Protoichthyosaurus applebyi, a holotype, or original specimen that describes a new species. It is the first known fossil of its kind anywhere in the world. The specimen has previously been used for teaching and outreach work while visiting primary schools to encourage children to explore science and engineering by Dr David Large, a geologist and Head of the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at the university. The fossil was a hit with children but was forgotten about for years, and until recently had been sitting on a shelf in a storeroom.

Dean Lomax, a palaeontologist and Visiting Scientist at The University of Manchester, contacted Dr Large in 2014 while searching for another ichthyosaur fossil, and was unaware that the newlyfound specimen even existed as it had not been scientifically examined before. Eventually it was determined that this specimen is of a species new to science.

It has been hailed as a major step in uncovering Britain’s early fossil past and understanding ichthyosaur evolution. He said “This ichthyosaur is an essential part of Nottingham’s scientific collection and I’d like to thank David for bringing it to my attention. As part of our study we have identified over 20 specimens of Protoichthyosaurus, but only one example of P. applebyi, making this the only known specimen recorded so far. I’m confident that there will be more out there.”

From the University of Manchester in England:

‘Fake fin’ discovery reveals new ichthyosaur species

October 10, 2017

An ichthyosaur first discovered in the 1970s but then dismissed and consigned to museum storerooms across the country has been re-examined and found to be a new species.

In 1979, after inspecting several ichthyosaurs from the UK, palaeontologist Dr Robert Appleby announced a new type of ichthyosaur called Protoichthyosaurus. He also named two species, P. prostaxalis and P. prosostealis. Other scientists, however, dismissed the discovery of Protoichthyosaurus and suggested that it was identical with Ichthyosaurus, a very common UK ichthyosaur.

Now a detailed study led by palaeontologists Dean Lomax (The University of Manchester) and Professor Judy Massare (State University of New York), has re-examined and compared Protoichthyosaurus and Ichthyosaurus. It found major differences in the number of bones in the front fin, or forefin, of both species. This fundamental difference probably reflects the way both species used them to manoeuvre whilst swimming. Differences were also found in the skulls. But it was another discovery about the fins that also got the team’s attention.

Lomax explains: “This unusual forefin structure was originally identified by Robert Appleby in 1979, but some of the historic specimens he examined had been ‘faked’, and this fakery had been missed until now. In some instances, an isolated fin of an Ichthyosaurus had been added to a Protoichthyosaurus skeleton to make it appear more complete, which led to the genuine differences being missed. This has been a major problem because it stopped science from progressing. We also found some pathological fins, including Ichthyosaurus fins with pathologies that mimic the Protoichthyosaurus forefin structure.”

Lomax and Massare also teamed up with former undergraduate student Rashmi Mistry (University of Reading), who had been studying an unusual ichthyosaur in the collections of the Cole Museum of Zoology, University of Reading, for her undergraduate dissertation.

“Whilst doing my dissertation in 2016, I studied several ichthyosaurs in the collections, including a very small skeleton. It had an unusual forefin that matched Protoichthyosaurus, which I understood to be a widely unrecognised genus. However, when I contacted Dean, he was very excited. He told me that this little skeleton is the only known small juvenile Protoichthyosaurus,” added Rashmi.

Over 20 specimens of Protoichthyosaurus were identified as part of this study. This is significant as each specimen (with a forefin) has the same structure. The specimens are from the Jurassic Period, between 200 — 190 million years old, and come from Somerset, Dorset, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Nottinghamshire, England, and Glamorgan, Wales.

Whilst searching through collections, Dean also came across a skeleton at The University of Nottingham. This specimen is different to all other known examples of Protoichthyosaurus in the skull and humerus and it has been identified as a new species, which the team have called Protoichthyosaurus applebyi, in honour of Robert Appleby. It is currently on display as part of the ‘Dinosaurs of China’ exhibition at Lakeside Arts, University of Nottingham.

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5 thoughts on “New ichthyosaur species discovery in England

  1. Pingback: First Jurassic ichthyosaur discovery in India | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Ichthyosaur discovery in England | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Ichthyosaur discovery, one of largest animals ever | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Dinosaur age dinoflagellates discovery in Australia | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: How ichthyosaurs swam, new study | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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