Researchers from the University of Magallanes in Chile have discovered the fossilized remains of Fiona, a four-meter-long pregnant ichthyosaur female. It is Chile’s first complete ichthyosaur fossil, discovered in a melting glacier deep in the country’s Patagonia region. A chopper was used to remove the intact remains.
The ichthyosaur fossil, which was discovered in 2009 but not extracted so far, contains many embryos. The 31-day journey to recover the fossil was exhausting. The remarkable ichthyosaur is the world’s only pregnant female from the period – between 129 and 139 million years ago – discovered and recovered.
The excavations will help researchers learn more about the animal’s species, the paleobiology of embryonic development and the diseases it may have had during its lifetime.
From Tyndall Glacier in Chile’s Patagonia region, scientists have successfully recovered one of the world’s most complete ichthyosaur fossils with intact embryos. Scientists have named the preserved and pregnant ancient sea lizard “Fiona”. Scientists will be able to study the embryonic development of ichthyosaurs, which lived between 90 and 250 million years ago and roamed the seas.
Judith Pardo, the scientist who discovered the fossil, described it as the only pregnant ichthyosaur that was found on earth between 129 and 139 million years ago.
The fossil was discovered more than ten years ago by Pardo, a paleontologist at the GAIA Antarctic Research Center of the University of Magallanes, but the site’s extreme temperature conditions, harsh terrain and remoteness made recovery a logistical problem.
The fossil had to be airlifted off the site after scientists spent 31 days removing it. Paleontologists said they had to extract five blocks weighing 200 kilos to keep the bones intact because the fossil was so complete.
The fossil is currently being prepared for display at the Rio Seco Natural History Museum in Chile. During the effort, scientists unearthed 23 ichthyosaur specimens, bringing the total to around 100 in Tyndall Glacier and making it one of the most prolific and best-preserved ichthyosaur sites on the planet.