This is what prehistoric marine reptiles looked like – according to the latest scientific insights.
They must have existed in Earth’s oceans about 160 million years ago in a row: ichthyosaurs. Marine reptiles were several meters long and were excellent swimmers who could also dive to the depths. Researchers have already found many remains of ichthyosaur fossils in Europe (including in Belgium, Germany and France), but also abroad (even in Spitsbergen).
But what those ichthyosaurs might have looked like alive has remained quite mystifying. This is mainly because until recently mainly bones and teeth were found, but soft tissues – such as skin, muscle, fat and pigments – were rarely found. It left much room for guesswork and over the past centuries very different artistic impressions of the ichthyosaur have been revised. Sometimes marine reptiles were depicted as a kind of swimming dinosaur. On other panels, marine reptiles such as a dolphin or an animal resembling a crocodile are depicted.
However, more soft tissues of ichthyosaurs have recently been recovered. This offers new possibilities, according to a study published in the journal Earth Science Reviews† The study authors compiled all information collected about ichthyosaurs over the past 300 years, then engaged an artist to create a lifelike reconstruction of marine reptiles based on that information.
“Our reconstruction is the most recent scientifically – and hopefully correct – explanation for the emergence of these animals,” said Professor Mats Ericsson. “(Reconstruction, editor) is of great value to students and researchers who would like to learn more about the famous fish lizard.”
In addition to all that general knowledge about ichthyosaurs, the reconstruction is based specifically on an ichthyosaur that was discovered in Germany and belongs to the genus Stenopterygius belongs. “This fossil has been studied extensively before to learn more about the biology and color of fish lizards,” said researcher Johann Lindgren.
to rebuild Stenopterygius I worked for a year. In addition to the clay carvings, 3D models were also used to create the reconstructions. The result is astonishing: the reconstructed ichthyosaur is 1.6 meters long and looks lifelike. What stands out, of course, is the injury to the right side of the ichthyosaur. Conscious choice, the researchers explain in their study. Because this also makes the inner tissue layers as shown in recent research visible.
“We have a rebuild Stenopterygius It is currently the latest representation of what a surviving ichthyosaur might look like and is based on experimental evidence.” It remains to be seen how long the reconstruction will remain up to date, of course, but the researchers do not expect that the appearance will have to be reviewed extensively based on new discoveries. But in future research New details that require it will appear Stenopterygius They need fine-tuning here and there, and they’re almost certain of that.
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