An ichthyosaur first discovered in the 1970s but then dismissed and consigned to museum storerooms across the UK has been re-examined and found to be a new species.
|One of the original skeletons of Protoichthyosaurus described by Dr Robert Appleby in 1979 |
[Credit: National Museum of Wales/Dean R. Lomax]
Other scientists, however, dismissed the discovery of Protoichthyosaurus and suggested that it was identical with Ichthyosaurus, a very common UK ichthyosaur.
|Bill Wahl, Prof. Judy Massare, Dr David Large & Dean Lomax study the new species of ichthyosaur |
at The University of Nottingham [Credit: University of Nottingham]
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.
|3D Skull of Protoichthyosaurus in the collections of the Lapworth Museum of Geology, |
University of Birmingham [Credit: Lapworth Museum/Dean R. Lomax]
|Very small juvenile example of Protoichthyosaurus in the Cole Museum of Zoology, |
University of Reading [Credit: University of Reasing/Dean R. Lomax]
"Whilst doing my dissertation in 2016, I studied several ichthyosaurs in the collections, including a very small skeleton. It had an unusual forefin that matched Protoichthyosaurus, which I understood to be a widely unrecognised genus. However, when I contacted Dean, he was very excited. He told me that this little skeleton is the only known small juvenile Protoichthyosaurus," added Rashmi.
|Skeleton of new species. Protoichthyosaurus applebyi at University of Nottingham |
[Credit: University of Nottingham/Dean R. Lomax]
Whilst searching through collections, Dean also came across a skeleton at The University of Nottingham. This specimen is different to all other known examples of Protoichthyosaurus in the skull and humerus and it has been identified as a new species, which the team have called Protoichthyosaurus applebyi, in honour of Robert Appleby. It is currently on display as part of the 'Dinosaurs of China' exhibition at Lakeside Arts, University of Nottingham.
The new study has been published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
Source: University of Manchester [October 10, 2017]