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Not Exactly Drogon: 'Sea Dragon' Fossil Found in U.K. is 'New to Science'

Oct 07, 2016 11:21 PM EDT
Ichythosaur fossil
An ichythyosaur fossil like this, is also one of the six species of the "sea dragons" that were last seen during the dinosaur era.
(Photo : Efraimstochter/Public Domain/Pixabay)

There are two species of "sea dragons" or Ichthyosaurs -- both discovered during Victorian era -- that have been declared as "new" to science. This now brings to six known species of "sea dragons," which are reptiles who swam the seas during the Jurassic era.

Ichythyosaurs is a marine reptile that resembles a dolphin that has a large teeth. They lived during the Mezosoic era and appeared 250 million years ago. They disappeared after the dinosaur era, according to Science Daily.

These two fossils were excavated in 1800s in Somerset. During Victorian era, there was such ichthyosaurs skeleton craze that everyone was practically looking for it, such as Mary Anning from the Dorset coast, who first found it. One of the fossils is found at the Bristol University while the other was donated to Philadelphia by Thomas Hawkins, a well-known Victorian fossils collector. Hawkins had a collection of marine reptiles that were discovered in Somerset during the first half of the 19th century.

"These are two new species -- brand new species to science,'' paleontologist Dean Lomax told BBC News. Lomax, together with another paleontologist, Judy Massare, studied hundreds of ichthyosaur fossils found in Europe and North America.

 "They show that during the early Jurassic -- around 200 million years ago -- the ichythyosaur, and specifically this particular type, was a lot more diverse than previously thought."

The fossil at Bristol University is called Ichythyosaur larkini, named after British paleontologist Nigel Larkin, whose family lived in Bristol. The second fossil that is housed in Philadelphia is named Ichythyosaur somersetensis, named after the place where several fossils are excavated.

The paleontologists' basis on recognizing these fossils as "new to Science" is because of the distinctive features of the reptiles' skulls and other bones.

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