Friday, September 22, 2006

 

Pregnant prehistoric fossil offers clues to past ('Ping Pong Ichthyosaur')

Maiaspondylus lindoei Platypterygius Holotype Ophthalmosaurs (Evolution Research: John Latter / Jorolat)

University of Alberta scientists have named a new species of ancient marine reptile, fondly called the Ping Pong Ichthyosaur for the spot the prehistoric creature called home for the last 25 years. Embryos found within the body of a pregnant fossil also mark the most recent record of a live birth and the physically smallest known ichthyosaur embryos.

"It was pretty amazing to realize this valuable discovery had sat under a ping pong table for 25 years," said Dr. Michael Caldwell, paleontologist at the U of A. "But I suppose that after 100 millions of years in the dirt, it's all relative."

A few decades ago graduate students and a technician from the Faculty of Science collected several ichthyosaur specimens - the marine animals resembled dolphins and fish - from the Loon River Formation at Hay River, NWT (Northwest Territories). Somehow the bones ended up in several boxes underneath a ping pong table in the science undergraduate lab...

...Working with Erin Maxwell, an undergraduate student at the U of A at the time, Caldwell soon learned the bones were from the Lower Cretaceous period, or about 100 million years old. [Paleontology, Embryo]
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Based on the journal Palaeontology paper "A New Genus of Ichthyosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of Western Canada" (Abstract)

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