Friday, 13 October 2017

'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.

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