FROM THE EDUCATION DESK
December is here and for me this year has gone all too soon and so very quickly!
During the early Jurassic period, a baby marine reptile gorged itself on squid and then abruptly died. Roughly 200 million years later, paleontologist Dean Lomax was examining this creature’s fossilized remains at the University of Birmingham’s Lapworth Museum of Geology when he realized he was seeing a few fossil firsts. The two foot long skeleton was the first fossilized newborn of its species. It was the first to be found with leftover squid in its stomach. There wasn’t any record of where it came from, or how deep underground it had been buried. This information would have given them a rough date of when the creature died. By looking at the tiny fossils embedded in the stone along with the skeleton, they could roughly date it to the early Jurassic period. These swimming reptiles could reach up to 15 feet in length as adults. The scientists could tell it was a baby because the fossilized skull bones were spongy instead of smooth, a possible sign of being a baby, and its ring shaped eyeball bones were huge compared to its eye sockets. This could mean it was not done growing. The findings of Nigel Larkin and Dean Lomax were published in the journal Historical Biology.
“I was very excited to uncover the Ichthyosaurs last meal, especially since it is different to what has been found in another species of Ichthyosaur,” Lomax said. The fossilized babies of other species of Ichthyosaurus have been found with fish scales in their stomach, a sign that distinct species may have had distinct food preferences.