(ORDO NEWS) — Paleontologists have found the fossilized remains of a female ancient “lizard fish” in a melting glacier deep in South American Patagonia.
Scientists from the University of Magallanes (Chile) in March and April 2022 explored the melting Tyndall Glacier in Chilean Patagonia.
There, they found fossils of 23 ichthyosaurs in various states of preservation. This makes Tyndall the largest “ichthyosaur graveyard” known today.
The most interesting find is a pregnant female ichthyosaur, which was named Fiona. Her remains were four meters long and contained several embryos.
The original leader of the expedition, Judith Pardo-Pérez, discovered Fiona back in 2009. But due to the extremely difficult path to the glacier, it was only now possible to pick up the remains of ancient reptiles.
Fiona died about 139 million years ago, which makes the find unique. To date, this is the only case of the discovery of a pregnant female ichthyosaur, relating to the period between the Valanginian and Hauterive stages of the Lower Cretaceous.
In collaboration with specialists from the University of Manchester (UK), Chilean scientists hope to obtain results on the paleobiology of ichthyosaurs from the Tyndall Glacier region, to determine the degree of maturity of the bones and ecological niches to assess possible changes in diet that occurred during their evolution and which can help establish paleobiogeographic links. with ichthyosaurs from other latitudes.
Ichthyosaurus Fiona has been preserved in an exceptionally complete set, and these are already prospects for serious research in the field of paleobiology of embryonic development.
In addition, scientists plan to find out what disease Fiona died from: during a preliminary study of the traces of violent death, they did not reveal.
“The fact that these incredible ichthyosaurs are so well preserved in the extreme environment exposed by a retreating glacier is unparalleled anywhere else in the world.
The significant number of ichthyosaurs found in the area, including complete skeletons of adults, juveniles, and newborns, provides a unique window into the past.
International cooperation is helping to share this exceptional ichthyosaur graveyard with the world and greatly contributes to the advancement of science,” said Dean Lomax, a paleontologist at the University of Manchester, commenting on the results of the expedition.
All members of the expedition noted that the conditions in which it passed were simply extreme. Glaciers generally rarely meet with good weather, so the specialists had to build a hangar over Fiona to protect the work site from winds, heavy rains and snow.
There is, of course, no road to the “ichthyosaur cemetery” on Tyndall Glacier – the last ten hours of the journey could only be done on foot.
Under such conditions, it was impossible to remove the fossils on the ground, observing the measures necessary for their preservation. So Fiona and the other ichthyosaurs flew off the glacier in helicopters.
In general, ichthyosaurs are prehistoric reptiles that ruled the water world for almost the entire Mesozoic. Sometimes they are mistakenly attributed to dinosaurs, but the differences are too great.
When the pangolin decided to swim, he changed a lot: he got a streamlined body, a powerful tail with a wide fin, and changed his paws into fins.
The most important property of ichthyosaurs was their warm-bloodedness. Thanks to her, they were able to settle in all the seas and oceans, regardless of the temperature of the water. In addition, they were viviparous, which also distinguished them from known dinosaurs.
The largest collection of ichthyosaur fossils is in the State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart (Germany): it consists of more than 500 specimens.
But, as noted by representatives of this institution, there are very few finds of “fish-zappers” who lived 130-140 million years ago on the planet in general, and those that exist come from Europe.
Paleontologists now plan to compare European specimens with those from Tyndall Glacier, which they believe will help fill a gap in knowledge about the types and overall diversity of species that inhabited the ocean in the Southern Hemisphere, especially in temperate and polar latitudes.
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