STL Science Center

STL Science Center

12 July 2014

Anning Again

Many of you many have noticed I've missed a few days (if not then you may just be unfamiliar with how things work around here still!). I assumed I would have time to pre-publish and schedule entries for this week while I moved from Kansas to Missouri; however, I obviously did not have time to do that. Instead, I will begin today where I left off last week, with Mary Anning, and then next week we will resume discussing our normal fare (paleo-animals!).

Therefore, to continue, I think it is important to highlight the lesser known contributions of Ms. Anning. Namely, that is her discovery of remains that were to be described as ichthyosaurs (fish lizards). Anning may not have described her findings with her own pen (as far as we know) but her ability to see these fossils did great service to paleontology as well as to geology. The history of England and knowledge about its geological formation were discovered along with the remains as they were described. Anning's descriptions of the area, and those of geologists that accompanied her in revisitations of the areas, were of great use in this. Regardless of how much direct influence she had, Anning's discovery of the remains of ichthyosaurs along the English coast represented direct evidence that the ocean once covered that coastline more than in her day and that unique reptilian swimmers inhabited those waters. We now know a great deal about the myriad members of Ichthyosauria, but when they were first discovered they were extremely alien life forms. Anning, and others, must have been amazed and bewildered by the ichthyosaur fossils they unearthed. 

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