Named By: Jiang, Hao, Maisch, Matzke & Sun - 2005.
Classification: Chordata, Reptilia, Ichthyosauria, Mixosauridae.
Species: B. maotaiensis (type).
Size: 1 meter long.
Known locations: China, Guizhou Province, Maotai.
Time period: Ladinian of the Triassic.
Fossil representation: 2 individuals, including skulls and post cranial remains of the shoulder girdle and front fins.
described in 1965 as Mixosaurus
maotaiensis, a later second
specimen revealed that this was actually a different genus. Standard
procedure when erecting a new genus from a previously described
species involves using the original specific species name to
establish the type species of the new genus, in this case resulting
in Barracudasaurus maotaiensis. Barracudasaurus
was chosen in
reference in its similarity to the Barracuda, predatory fish that
swim in today’s oceans. The specific name means ‘from Maotai’,
a town in Guizhou Province where the remains were found.
The key difference between Barracudasaurus and Mixosaurus is in the teeth, with Barracudasaurus having one row of teeth which become robust and rounded towards the back. This suggests that Barracudasaurus included a larger number of shelled prey animals in its diet. Mixosaurus by contrast seems to have been a more dedicated hunter of softer prey like fish and squid.
The presence of Barracudasaurus in China has been used to suggest a core origin of the evolution of ichthyosaurs as coming from Asia however this remains difficult to prove. There are many different genera of early ichthyosaurs that display features that suggest they are more advanced while others have different advancements that are still lacking in the advanced features of other ichthyosaurs. One such ichthyosaur is Utatsusaurus, and while it is known from Asia (specifically Japan) it is also known from the west coast of Canada. Back in the Triassic these areas were at almost opposite ends of a supercontinent called Pangaea which suggests that the early ichthyosaurs were a very wide ranging group, and as such the point of origin of the group remains uncertain.