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Scientists Solve Mystery Of 2 Extinct Reptile Species

9 March 2017, 4:00 am EST By Steve Bowman Tech Times
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A study conducted by two scientists has solved the mystery surrounding two extinct reptile species. The research proves that the 'Ichthyosaurus communis' and the 'Ichthyosaurus intermedius' are the same species.  ( Julio Lacerda )

A collaborative study conducted by two prominent scientists has clarified doubts which have been plaguing the minds of paleontologists for some time.

Dean Lomax, an honorary scientist and a paleontologist at the University of Manchester and Professor Judy Massare from Brockport College have teamed up to research on the differences between Ichthyosaurus and I. intermedius.

The Study

In the study by Lomax and Massare, the two reviewed all the previous research to determine the difference between the two extinct species.

The conclusion of this study is that both the reptiles are of the same species. The features of Icthyosaurus intermedius are identical to the I. communis.

"The early accounts of ichthyosaurs were based on very scrappy, often isolated, remains. This resulted in a very poor understanding of the differences between species and thus how to identify them. To complicate matters further, the original specimen of Icthyosaurus communis is lost and was never illustrated," said Lomax.

Both scientists have gone through varied materials, research done by earlier scientists, and the available fossils to determine the differences.

They also took into consideration all the previous assumptions, both regarding differences between the supposed two species, as well as the similarities.

However, after an extensive study, they concluded that both species are actually one and the same and the differences are too minor for it to belong to two different species of the Ichthyosaur.

Previous Research

During the early 19th century, many Ichthyosaur remains were found in England. However, it was not before 1821 that the first species known as Ichthyosaurus communis was discovered.

A collection of fossils belonging to the Ichthyosaur are on display in London's Natural History Museum.

In the year 1822 three more species were identified by the differences in their structure and shape of their teeth.

Later two of the species were recognized as different types of ichthyosaur while one of them was called Intermedius and was closely related to the I. communis type of the extinct reptile.

In later years, many reputed scientists, like Sir Richard Owen, researched about the fossils of Ichthyosaur which were collected from Somerset, Dorset Yorkshire, and from varied other locations in England.

The studies performed by these scientists resulted in confusion in the classification. Scientists were unable to determine whether a particular fossil belonged to I. communis or its brethren, the Intermedius.

Sometime in the middle of the 1970s a renowned paleontologist Dr Chris McGowan had recommended that I. intermedius and Ichthyosaurus may be is from the same species.

This speculation has now been proven true by the recent research by the two Massare and Lomax.

Their study has been published in the Journal of Systematic Paleontology.

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