ICHTHYOSAURS

'FISH-LIZARDS'

Life Reconstruction of Ichthyosaurus

 

CLASSIFICATION

Kingdom Animalia (animals)
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Phylum Chordata
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Subphylum Vertebrata (vertebrates)
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Superclass Tetrapods (four limbs)
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Class Reptilia (reptiles)
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Subclass Diapsids - these include all the reptiles (except turtles) and birds. They are distinguished by having two holes in the rear upper part of their skulls and two holes behind the eyes.
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Order Ichthyosauria or Ichthyopterygia - which includes 5 families of the marine-adapted reptiles:

 

WHAT DOES THE NAME MEAN?

The word ichthyosaur comes from two Greek roots. "ichthyos" means fish and "sauros" denotes lizards or reptiles. So ichthyosaurs are sometimes called "fish-lizards", although they are not phylogenetically considered lizards. The word "Ichthyopterygia" is a combination of "ichthyos" and "pteryx", the latter meaning a wing, referring to the flippers.

 

DISCOVERY!

The first ichthyosaur fossils were found before the first dinosaurs in the early 1800s. Contrary to popular belief, the first definitive specimen was not found by Mary Anning alone. It was actually her brother Joseph Anning that found the initial skull in Lyme Regis, although she made several subsequent discoveries that were even more spectacular. At the time geology was in its infancy and very much focussed on palaeontology, study of fossils. However when dinosaurs such as Iguanodon grabbed the attention of palaeontologists in the 1830s, the novelty of the 'fish-lizards' faded away. But thanks to recent discoveries in the 1980s and 90s, including the unearthing of an enormous 21-metre beast in British Columbia, Canada, intense interest has resurfaced. Furthermore, since these new discoveries, fresh insights have come thick and fast.