A team of researchers led by the University of Manchester has discovered a new species of ichthyosaur using the skeletal remains on display in the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences. The new species lived during the early Jurassic Period 200 million years ago and has been named Ichthyosaurus larkini in honor of the British palaeontologist Nigel Larkin.
The study, now published in the journal Papers in Palaeontology, states that Ichthyosaurs were ocean predators that resembled dolphins or sharks. They can grow up to 15 meters in length.
The BBC reports that ichthyosaurs evolved from a currently unknown land reptile that returned back to the water. Experts believe that these species quickly changed from lizards with fins to bodies with fish-like built.
The animals were estimated to reach speeds of up to 36 kilometers per hour. For a long time, they were the top predator in the ocean but another type of beasts, called plesiosaurs, ousted them eventually.
Researcher Dean Lomax, Honorary Scientist at the University of Manchester, points out that the name Larkin means fierce, which is very fitting for the newly discovered fast-moving predator.
“Ichthyosaurs, with their similarities to both modern fish and dolphins, are among the more arresting and captivating fossil specimens known; we are very lucky to have two such specimens on display in the Wills Memorial Building as part of the University of Bristol School of Earth Sciences Collection,” says Jonathan Hanson, Collections and Practical Manager from the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol.
The skeletal remains, the complete remains of the large ichthyosaurus found in Walton, Somerset, was called specimen “25300.” It was donated to the University of Bristol 80 years ago by the City Museum.
The museum bought the remains in 1915 as well as other items on the Chaning Pearce collection. It was donated to the university in 1930.