Archive

‘Missing link’ found for ancient sea reptiles | TribLIVE.com
News

‘Missing link’ found for ancient sea reptiles

WASHINGTON — Ichthyosaurs were a hugely successful group of marine reptiles that flourished in the world’s oceans for more than 150 million years, with many looking much like today’s dolphins and some getting even bigger than a sperm whale.

But the extensive ichthyosaur fossil record had not included any of the earliest forms representing the transition from their land reptile ancestors to creatures fully adapted to life in the sea. Until now.

Scientists said on Wednesday they have unearthed in China the fossil of a small ichthyosaur with large, flexible flippers that let it move around on land like a seal while spending most of its time in the water 248 million years ago.

They called it the long-sought missing link revealing the early evolution of ichthyosaurs.

“We finally got this milestone and this first ichthyosaur,” said paleontologist Da-yong Jiang of Peking University in Beijing, who co-led the study published in the journal Nature.

The creature, named Cartorhynchus lenticarpus, was 16 inches long and had a snout .

The fossil, excavated in 2011 in China’s Anhui Province, is quite well preserved.

“Cartorhynchus represents a stage of the land-to-sea transition that was somehow lacking in the fossil record of the ichthyosaur lineage, while known in most other marine reptile and mammal lineages,” said University of California, Davis paleontologist Ryosuke Motani, the other study co-leader.


TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.