Exploring Ichthyosaurs in the 21st Century

Nov 2020 Bath Geological Society

I was invited to talk to Bath Geological Society on 5 November 2020 – fireworks night and the beginning of Lockdown 2 (this time it’s personal) – an auspicious night indeed.

Exploring Ichthyosaurs in the 21st Century
The title slide to my talk ‘Exploring Ichthyosaurs in the 21st Century’, featuring some of the specimens in the Staatliches Museum for Naturkunde Stuttgart that I visited in 2017.

This I’d intended as an insight into the last 200 years of ichthyosaur research – since the first major specimens found by Mary and Joseph Anning in 1810 – through the discovery of numerous new specimens and species, and the work of many people across the world, and onto a couple of questions that I think we are primed to consider and answer in the near future.

A very simplified ichthyosaur phylogeny
A very simplified ichthyosaur phylogeny – a version of this first appeared in episode 85 of palaeocast. Silhouettes taken from PhyloPic CC BY 3.0 authors Benjamin Moon, Dmitry Bogdanov, T. Michael Keesey, Gareth Monger, and Zimices.

I covered a few different things:

  • The origin and early evolution of ichthyosaurs – considering the time frame in which the earliest ichthyosaurs appeared and how quickly they diversified.
  • Adaptations that ichthyosaurs have to life in the water – including their streamlined body shape, snapping skull, and giving birth to live young.
  • Where ichthyosaurs fit in the diversity of other marine reptiles – how this changed through their evolution and towards their eventual extinction.
  • How new finds and more detailed studies on singled deposits can show the diversity of single ecosystems affected by single events.
  • Prospects for expanding single comparisons within clades to analyses that incorporate and compare the evolution of multiple groups that transitioned from land into water.

Updated: