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Research Reveals Insights on How Ancient Reptiles Adapted to Life in Water

Monday, June 15, 2015 12:00 pm EDT

The world’s first study into the brain anatomy of a marine reptile that lived at the same time as the dinosaurs sheds light on how the reptilian brain adapted to life in the oceans.

The fossils of ichthyosaurs, which lived 150 to 200 million years ago, are often very well preserved, but they are commonly flattened. Now investigators have used computed tomography to create a 3-D scan of the animal’s skull, revealing internal details of the palate and braincase that usually cannot be seen. A reconstruction of the brain shows the importance of vision for the predator, which is matched by the reptile’s huge eyeballs. The olfactory region also appears to be enlarged, suggesting that smell was more important for ichthyosaurs than previously thought. The findings are published in Palaeontology.

Marek, R. D., Moon, B. C., Williams, M., Benton, M. J. (2015), The skull and endocranium of a Lower Jurassic ichthyosaur based on digital reconstructions. Palaeontology. doi: 10.1111/pala.12174


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