STL Science Center

STL Science Center

15 August 2015

Life Aquatic

The derived ichthyopterygian Stenopterygius with one embryo in birth position and three in body cavity, reconstructed based on SMNS 6293 (Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde, Stüttgart, Germany). .
The most amazing fossils we have tend to have juveniles involved. The reason is not so much tied in with the fact that we are baby crazy (as a species we kind of are, one has to admit), bu more to do with the fact that these tiny little wonders are, sadly, frozen in time but identifiable as the young of a given species. The ability to study the motherhood of the species and the life histories (ontogeny) of the species are the most important scientific repercussions of finding juveniles, but we just like babies, we can admit that. Probably the biggest discovery within marine reptiles, not just Ichthyosauria, was the discovery of viviparity. The idea that a single pup was born alive and ready to swim was astounding enough, so the discovery of a Stenopterygius with a pup in the process of being born and three more "in the womb" must have been completely outrageous in the best possible way. This reconstruction, from Ryosuk, et al. 2014 shows what that specimen looks like in all of its awesome glory.

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