Shelved and overlooked fossil turns out to be a new prehistoric species

Shelved And Overlooked Fossil Turns Out To Be A New Prehistoric Species
Shelved And Overlooked Fossil Turns Out To Be A New Prehistoric Species

A fossil that had been overlooked for the 30 years it's been sitting in storage at a UK museum got a closer look, and it turns out it's evidence of a previously unknown species.

The remains are from of a type of ichthyosaur that swam the prehistoric seas 189 million years ago. The ichthyosaur -- and those like it -- vanished from the planet before the age of dinosaurs, dying out at the early stages of the late Cretaceous Period.

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As far as this fossilized one goes, it was discovered in the 1980s along Dorset's Jurassic Coast. Once at the Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery, the specimen was often overlooked, as it was believed to be a plaster cast.

In 2008, paleontologist Dean Lomax saw promise in the fossil and began his research. Not only did it turn out to be authentic, it was quite detailed.

"After years of tireless work, collaborating with Prof Judy Massare from New York, and travelling the world in the name of research, Dean has finally revealed the ichthyosaur's true secrets," Manchester Evening News reports.

The finding was then published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Lomax, now 25, was able to determine that, in addition to being a new species, the last thing the prehistoric swimmer ate was squid. "We could see tiny hook-shaped features that were actually the hooks from the tentacles of squid," he told the BBC.

The discovery is being hailed as both a fantastic find and a testament to the importance of museum collections.

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