Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Prehistoric reptile's last meal revealed

By Helen Briggs BBC News

3 October 2017 

The fossil of a marine reptile that lived 199 million years ago has been identified as a newborn that ate squid as its last meal.

The reptile was an ichthyosaur, which gave birth to live young.

It belongs to the group Ichthyosaurus communis, which was the first species of ichthyosaur to be recognised by science in 1821.

The "exceptional" specimen is the first juvenile of its species to be identified, say researchers.

The reptile had remnants of squid inside its stomach when it died.

"Many tiny hook-like structures are preserved between the ribs," said Dean Lomax of the University of Manchester, UK.

"These are from the arms of prehistoric squid. So, we know this animal's last meal before it died was squid."

About 1,000 fossils are held in museums and other collections around the world. Yet, there are very few specimens of newborns and most are incomplete.

The specimen was identified as a juvenile from the shape of its skull bones.

"This specimen is practically complete and is exceptional," said Dean Lomax.

Nigel Larkin of the University of Cambridge recognised the importance of the fossil when he was examining specimens from the Lapworth Museum of Geology at the University of Birmingham.

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