About 200 million years ago, a newborn ichthyosaur gave one of his first feasts and ate one or several squids. It was going to be the last bit of his life, because he died very soon afterwards.
This is the story that tells us a forgotten fossil of Ichthyosaurus communis pertaining to the collection of the Museum of Lapworth Geology of the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. The remains have been studied by a team of British specialists who emphasize the importance of this specimen: it is the first fossil of an almost complete young common ichthyosaurus known.
Ichthyosaurs were marine reptiles similar to dolphins, and became extinct some 90 million years ago, much earlier than the dinosaurs, which did 65 million years ago. According to a research in 2016, they disappeared because of the combination of abrupt climate change and their inability to evolve fast enough to adapt.
One of squid
Researchers know that this fossilized young ichthyosaur was a baby because of its size (70 centimeters in length, the smallest specimen that exists) and the characteristics of the bones of its skull. Adults of the six species of known ichthyosaurs had lengths ranging from two to twenty meters.
In cleaning and analyzing the fossil, scientists discovered that there were numerous fragments of squid tentacles between their ribs, suggesting that this prehistoric cephalopod was the last meal of the baby ichthyosaurus.
Of unknown origin
The British specialists did not know where the fossil analyzed came from, since it was not accompanied by any data of its geographical origin or by a chronological estimate.
The study of the microfossils that accompanied the remains and the rock in which they were petrified revealed that this young specimen lived between 199 and 196 million years ago during the Lower Jurassic and had been found in Gloucestershire, east of England.