Ichthyosaurus


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Name: Ichthyosaurus‭ (‬fish lizard‭)‬.
Phonetic: Ick-thee-oh-sore-us.
Named By: William Daniel Conybeare‭ & ‬Henry De la Beche‭ ‬-‭ ‬1821.
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Sauropsida,‭ ‬Ichthyosauria,‭ ‬Ichthyosauridae.
Species:‭ ‬I.‭ ‬communis‭ (‬type‭)‬,‭ ‬I.‭ ‬breviceps,‭ ‬I.‭ ‬conybeari,‭ ‬I.‭ ‬intermedius.
Diet: Piscivore.
Size: 2‭ ‬meters long.
Known locations: Europe including,‭ ‬Belgium,‭ ‬England,‭ ‬Germany and Switzerland.
Time period: Hettangian to Sinemurian of the Jurassic.
Fossil representation: Many hundreds of specimens,‭ ‬some articulated.‭ ‬Skin impressions have also been recovered in some specimens.‭ ‬These reveal features such as the dorsal and caudal‭ (‬tail‭) ‬fins that are not often preserved.

       The most well-known of the ichthyosaurs,‭ ‬Ichthyosaurus itself is almost always included in books about dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures.‭ ‬While it may look superficially like a prehistoric dolphin,‭ ‬Ichthyosaurus wasn't even closely related, in fact‭ ‬Ichthyosaurus wasn't even a mammal like a dolphin is,‭ ‬it was‭ ‬a reptile.‭ ‬Also,‭ ‬Ichthyosaurus was not in the same group of reptiles as the dinosaurs,‭ ‬although it did live at the same time as many of them.
       With its distant ancestors being terrestrial reptiles going back to an aquatic lifestyle,‭ ‬Ichthyosaurus ended up with an extremely different morphology to other land living reptiles.‭ ‬This‭ '‬fish‭' ‬appearance is a result of the fact that the basic fish morphology is the most streamlined and efficient form for submerged locomotion.‭ ‬It also means that Ichthyosaurus was never able to return to the land,‭ ‬instead leading an entirely pelagic life in the oceans.
       As an ocean going hunter,‭ ‬the main diet of Ichthyosaurus would have been primarily if not exclusively piscivorous.‭ ‬Study of coprolites has confirmed the presence of both fish and squid in its feeding habits.‭ ‬Although Ichthyosaurus appears to have relied upon its sight for feeding,‭ ‬the solid bone structure of the ear drums suggests that they could have‭ '‬heard‭' ‬their prey from a distance by their vibrations in the water.
       Some specimens have shown smaller Ichthyosaurus remains inside larger ones in positions that appear to be within a uterus of a parent animal and‭ ‬some even appear to have been in the process of being born.‭ ‬This means that Ichthyosaurus almost certainly did not lay eggs,‭ ‬but was instead viviparous,‭ ‬giving birth to live young.‭ ‬As with other viviparous air breathing marine organisms,‭ ‬the young emerged from the mother tail first so that they did not drown while being born.

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Further reading
- Additional notices on the fossil genera Ichthyosaurus and Plesiosaurus - Transactions of the Geological Society of London, Series 2 1:103-123 - W. D. Conybeare - 1822.
- A large skull of Ichthyosaurus (Reptilia: Ichthyosauria) from the Lower Sinemurian (Lower Jurassic) of Frick (NW Switzerland) - Swiss Journal of Geosciences 101: 617-627 - M. W. Maisch, A. G. Reisdorf , R. Schlatter & A. Wetzel - 2008.
- An Ichthyosaurus (Reptilia, Ichthyosauria) with gastric contents from Charmouth, England: First report of the genus from the Pliensbachian - Paludicola 8 (1): 22–36 - Dean R. Lomax - 2010.
- A new specimen of Ichthyosaurus communis from Dorset, UK, and its bearing on the stratigraphical range of the species - Proceedings of the Geologists' Association 123:146-154 - S. P. Bennett, P. M. Barrett, M. E. Collinson, S. Moore-Fay, P. G. Davis & C. P. Palmer - 2012.






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