Pregnant Ichthyosaurs Among Incredibly Well-Preserved Fossils Revealed By Retreating Glacier

Ancient treasures spilled from a glacier in Patagonia in March and April this year, including Chile’s first complete ichthyosaur specimen. Named “Fiona”, she sits among a brood of 23 prehistoric reptiles recovered from the area and is accompanied by several embryos.

The fossilized remains are estimated to be between 129 and 139 million years old from the Lower Cretaceous and were recovered from melting ice in the Tyndall Glacier region of Chilean Patagonia by an expedition led by the University of Magallanes (UMAG). Sitting inside Torres del Paine National Park, the remains were able to be carefully wrapped and transported by helicopter.

“The results of the expedition met all expectations, and even more than expected,” said Dr Judith Pardo-Perezthe first female paleontologist to lead an expedition of this magnitude in Patagonia, in a statement from the University of Manchester.

Dr. Judith Pardo-Pérez with one of the ichthyosaur specimens. Images courtesy of University of Manchester

A good thing too, because it was a grueling 31-day mission to find, extract and carefully package the amazing and fragile fossil remains. The retreating glacier rewarded their efforts with Fiona, the only specimen known to science of a pregnant female ichthyosaur of the Valanginian-Higherian age.

The first fossil of its kind was excavated by a team led by paleontological excavator Héctor Ortiz from the Chilean Institute of Antarctica and the University of Chile and paleontological technician Jonatan Kaluza from the Fundación de Historia Natural Félix de Azara and CONICET.

“At 4 meters [13 feet] long, complete and with embryos in the making, the excavation will help provide information about his species, the paleobiology of embryonic development and a disease that affected him during his life,” Pardo-Pérez continued.

Dr Judith Pardo-Pérez examining the “best preserved skull of an ichthyosaur” found at Tyndall by Dr Dean Lomax. Images courtesy of University of Manchester

Fiona, alongside her 23 ichthyosaur specimen pals, marks the finest early Cretaceous ichthyosaur deposit in the world, the scientist says, being such an impressive collection of incredibly well-preserved fossilized remains. The specimens extracted will now contribute to research on these ancient animals, their characteristics and their way of life.

“We hope to obtain results on the diversity, disparity and paleobiology of ichthyosaurs from the Tyndall Glacier locality, establish degrees of bone maturity and ecological niches to assess the possible dietary transitions that have occurred throughout their evolution. and which could help establish paleobiogeographical connections with ichthyosaurs. other latitudes,” Pardo-Pérez said.

Héctor Ortiz, Jonatan Kaluza and Dean Lomax supervising the excavations. Images courtesy of University of Manchester

Dr Dean Lomax – whose readers may remember Rutland’s ichthyosaur which he hailed as “one of the greatest discoveries in British paleontological history” – was also on hand as a colleague paleontologist and “visiting scientist” affiliated with the University of Manchester. As part of the collaborative team behind the series of finds, he discovered some of the treasures himself, including the skull of a juvenile ichthyosaur which is believed to be the best-preserved specimen of its genus found. nowadays.

“The sheer number of ichthyosaurs found in the region, including complete skeletons of adults, juveniles and hatchlings, provides a unique window into the past,” he said. “International collaboration helps share this outstanding ichthyosaur graveyard with the world and, to a great extent, promotes science.”

[H/T: Vice]

Leave a Comment