New species of Ichthyosaur discovered in museum collection

New species of Ichthyosaur discovered in museum collection
Credit: McGill University

Hauffiopteryx altera (Latin for different from) has been identified as a new species of Ichthyosaurs by researchers from McGill University and the State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart in Germany.

Ichthyosaurs ('fish lizards'), a group of tuna-shaped reptiles that inhabited Earth's seas during the Mesozoic Era, were discovered by scientists in the early 19th century. Similar to the modern-day dolphin, ichthyosaurs underwent profound adaptions to including limbs transformed into flippers, a , and a tail fin.

Following a meticulous study of all specimens related to Hauffiopteryx typicus, a small 2-meter-long species, it was revealed that a single specimen in Germany was in fact different.

"Although the are generally similar across Europe during this time, we are finding there are some rare and possibly endemic species," explains Dirley CorteĢs, a under the supervision of Prof. Hans Larsson at McGill's Redpath Museum and co-author of the study published in Palaeontologica Electronica. "This finding will have a lot to say about how these ancient ecosystems functioned."

The fossils were retrieved in the Posidonia Shale, an Early Jurassic geological formation located at the axis of Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Quarried for over 200 years, the site has yielded thousands of spectacularly preserved ichthyosaur skeletons ranging between two and more than ten meters in length and representing seven species. Fossilized , stomach contents and embryos were also discovered.

"We were surprised to discover that this small dolphin-sized specimen, collected decades ago, is a new species," remarked Erin Maxwell, curator of fossil aquatic vertebrates at the State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart and lead author of the study. "There is quite a lot of diversity still waiting to be discovered in our vast museum collections."


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More information: Erin Maxwell et al. A revision of the Early Jurassic ichthyosaur Hauffiopteryx (Reptilia: Ichthyosauria), and description of a new species from southwestern Germany, Palaeontologia Electronica (2020). DOI: 10.26879/937
Journal information: Palaeontologia electronica

Provided by McGill University
Citation: New species of Ichthyosaur discovered in museum collection (2020, July 3) retrieved 14 August 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-07-species-ichthyosaur-museum.html
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