The Ichthyosaurus was a genus of reptiles with a very peculiar appearance. It coexisted with the first dinosaurs that appeared on Earth, specifically during the Triassic period (about 210 million years ago, that is, at the end of the period).
This specimen has been classified within the group of the sauropodic reptiles ichthyopterygians.
As we say, its appearance was very peculiar, since it would remind us of a mixture of fish and dolphin.
In fact, its name means “lizard fish” and comes from the Greek.
And although it reminds us greatly of the dolphin as far as appearance is concerned, we have to be clear that the dolphin is a mammal, while our dinosaur protagonist is a reptile by all accounts.
This similarity is due to evolutionary convergence.
But that detail and many others we’re going to tell you about next, because we have the most complete information about the Ichthyosaurus in the whole Spanish-speaking internet. Find out for yourself! And don’t leave without having read everything about this carnivorous Triassic lizard fish.
Taxonomy of the Ichthyosaurus
- The specimen belongs to the Animalia kingdom.
- This reptile corresponds to the phylum Chordata.
- Its class is Sauropsida.
- Its order is called Ichthyosauria.
- It is located within the family called Ichthyosauridae.
- Its genus is the Ichthyosaurus.
History of the Ichthyosaurus
To be more exact, we will specify that this reptile inhabited the earth from the end of the Triassic and beginning of the Jurassic. That would be about 210 to 140 million years ago, give or take.
Mary Anning was the discoverer at the end of the 19th century of a complete bone structure that was in a good state of conservation, in England; thanks to this, we have managed to know how its way of life was, as well as many other details.
That said, it should be noted that this prehistoric dolphin has been discovered on the European continent, specifically in Belgium, England and Switzerland.
Although the most important findings of this specimen were made in the central European country of Germany, to be more exact in the area of Holzmaden; place in which they were found a great quantity of vestiges, not to say that hundreds of fossils of this reptile, which have also helped enormously to discern on the nature and origin of this marine dinosaur.
The fossils found were in such good condition and were so many that they have greatly facilitated the total reconstruction of the animal.
But perhaps what has most attracted the attention of all these fossils is that within them the remains of other animals have been found, which makes one suppose that they could be their offspring, reaching the irrefutable conclusion that the Ichthyosaurus would have been a viviparous animal.
Characteristics of Ichthyosaurus
This marine dinosaur, although in shallow water, could measure up to a couple of meters in length.
Another of the curiosities of this dinosaur is that it had two very characteristic structures in its anatomy:
one of these structures was its fin, which was located in the dorsal area and was made of fleshy tissue, similar to that of sharks.
and the other structure would correspond to the caudal tabs or caudal fins, which grew on the inverted vertebrae of the tail.
And another striking feature in terms of shape is that of its tail, which is similar to that of a fish.
… well, that, and that it had four fins on the sides of its body, two in the front and two in the back.
With that physiognomy the Ichthyosaurus could swim at about 45 km/h, which is not bad at all.
As a good carnivore, it had a jaw with sharp fangs, with which it caught and tore its prey.
It is known that the bone structure in the ear area of this animal was quite grotesque, that is, it had a solid bone, with which the sound reached the inner ear through the vibrations produced in the water.
Its sense of sight was the most developed of all, with enormous and sensitive eyes of about 7 cm, which were protected by bony plates; in this way the animal was in charge of looking for the necessary food to survive and to see its predators and be able to escape.
Feeding of the Ichthyosaurus
Their diet was based mainly on fish smaller than theirs and on some prehistoric molluscs already extinct, such as belemnites and ammonites.
And he in turn preyed on other species of larger ichthyosarids.
At first it was thought that the Ichthyosaurus went out to the mainland to have its young, well the eggs, because it was thought to be oviparous, something that was later denied.
What does seem to have happened in reality is that the females kept their young in their wombs until they were sufficiently developed to be able to live on the outside by themselves.
There we find the doubt, which is that it is not known, at least for the moment, if these young are in the eggs at first, which hatch inside the uterus and stay there until they are ready to come out (something that happens in some types of sharks) or if these young were developed from the first moment in the uterus.
After this reflection, the curiosity comes here, and is that these babies were born first removing the tail and last the head, so they would not drown during birth.
However, once they were born, they had to be quick to swim and hide in shallow places where no predator could catch them.