200 mil­lion year- old sea crea­ture swims again!

Warwickshire Telegraph - - NEWS - Sam Dim­mer News edi­tor news@ coven­try­tele­graph. net

THE SKELE­TON of a 200 mil­lion year- old sea crea­ture found in a farmer’s field in War­wick­shire has been painstak­ingly put back to­gether and is back on dis­play.

The Ichthyosaurus was dis­cov­ered in 1955 on a farm in Ship­ston- on- Stour be­fore be­ing ex­ca­vated by Birm­ing­ham Mu­seum & Art Gallery staff.

In­cred­i­bly it’s not the only fos­sil of the huge dol­phin- like crea­ture to be dis­cov­ered in the county be­fore, with an­other spec­i­men be­ing found in a quarry in Stock­ton in 1898.

The Ship­ston ichthyosaurus - the largest ever found in the UK and maybe the world - is now on dis­play at Birm­ing­ham Science Mu­seum.

Univer­sity of Manch­ester scientist David Lo­max worked with palaeon­tol­o­gist Nigel Larkin and Luanne Mee­hi­tiya at Birm­ing­ham Mu­seum to cre­ate ac­cu­rate 3D repli­cas of the Ichthyosaurus’ miss­ing bones, us­ing CT scans of the ex­ist­ing fos­silised re­mains.

Its skull, which is 80cm long and 33cm wide, was cleaned be­fore be­ing com­pletely taken apart and re­con­structed to be more anatom­i­cally cor­rect. Sci­en­tists now have more in­for­ma­tion on ichthyosaurs since it was first put to­gether.

Once the skull had been re­assem­bled, the team found the rest of the skele­ton in stor­age, and be­gan to piece the whole crea­ture to­gether.

Repli­cas were made of any miss­ing bones to com­plete the jig­saw.

Ms Mee­hi­tiya said: “It has been a de­light to see the ichthyosaur de­velop, from just a skull that was too frag­ile to be dis­played to a beau­ti­fully con­served and com­pleted skele­ton that is the cen­tre­piece of a new per­ma­nent gallery.

“The project has been full of sur­prises, in­clud­ing find­ing the rest of the skele­ton in stor­age and dis­cov­er­ing quite how im­por­tant this spec­i­men is.”

Ichthyosaurs evolved from a group of land rep­tiles that re­turned to the sea, just as mod­ern dol­phins and whales evolved from mam­malian land an­ces­tors.

Scientist say they looked a lot like dol­phins.

They be­long to a dif­fer­ent group of rep­tiles from dinosaurs, but did live in the sea at the same time dinosaurs were liv­ing on land.

Mr Lo­max said: “This is a very im­por­tant spec­i­men. Not only is this the largest recorded ichthyosaurus in the UK, but pos­si­bly in the world.

“It also comes from a lo­ca­tion pre­vi­ously un­recorded for ichthyosaurs, so this adds to our un­der­stand­ing of the ge­o­graph­i­cal distri­bu­tion of ichthyosaurs dur­ing the early jurassic, a time when the UK was a se­ries of is­lands.”

As well as the skele­ton, the ex­perts have cre­ated a life- sized model of the ichthyosaur to show how it looked when alive - as well as an in­ter­ac­tive dig­i­tal ver­sion.

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