A 200-Million-Year Old Display Fossil Turns Out to Be a Rare Pregnant Specimen


Image: MOTHERBOARD
The pregnant ocean predator from the Jurassic is the largest of her kind.

By Becky Ferreira | MOTHERBOARD

Some 200 million years ago, a pregnant mother and her unborn progeny died in the early Jurassic seas, and became together entombed within the ocean floor. In the 1990s, their remains were recovered along the fossil-rich English Somerset coast, and eventually made their way to the Lower Saxony State Museum in Hannover, Germany, where they were put on display.

In August 2016, paleontologist Sven Sachs of the Bielefeld Natural History Museum came across the skeletal pair during a research visit to Hannover. He recognized that the remains belonged to the Ichthyosaurus genus, which is the namesake of the broader ichthyosaur group of extinct marine reptiles.

Ichthyosaurs were extremely successful predators that thrived in the Mesozoic oceans for over 160 million years during the age of dinosaurs. They died off around 90 million years ago, but left plentiful evidence of their long tenure on the planet in the fossil record.

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