The evolution of ichthyosaurs was hit hard by a mass extinction event 200 million years ago, according to a new study from the University of Bristol. Ichthyosaurs are iconic fossils, generally dolphin-shaped (image left, top), and feeding on a diet of fishes and marine molluscs including belemnites and ammonites (image left, bottom). Ichthyosaurs were first discovered 200 years ago by Mary Anning on the Jurassic coast of Dorset at Lyme Regis. Hundreds of specimens of these dolphin-shaped predators have since been found, and they were abundant and important predators in Jurassic seas. The new study shows, however, that Mary Anning's Jurassic ichthyosaurs were actually a much reduced remnant of the former glory of the group.
Click here to continue reading about the results of this new study from the Palaeobiology and Biodiversity Research Group of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol.
For more information on ichthyosaurs and other fossils of Lyme Regis, see the Fossils and Rocks page of the Museum website.