200 million year- old sea creature swims again!
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.