An Odd Way to find a Fossilised Ichthyosaur – Stumble over It
For an elderly Australian tourist on a trip to the northwest of Queensland, nipping into the bushes to relive himself, a sort of unscheduled toilet stop has surprising consequences as he stumbled over the exposed remains of a 100 million year old marine reptile.
This part of Australia is well known for marine reptile fossils, with animals such as the pliosaur Kronosaurus, plus plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs having been excavated from the Cretaceous aged sediments.
Explaining that this part of Australia was once a shallow, tropical sea, curator of the local natural history museum at nearby Richmond, Paul Stumkat commented:
“They [the elderly couple] went to a site near town where the Richmond Shire council has had a couple of quarries for road base. It is a good place to look for fossils as the overburden has been removed”.
The retired couple were a few miles past the quarry when the elderly gentleman required his unscheduled pit stop and as he went out for a pee, he stumbled over the remains of an ichthyosaur.
Ichthyosaurs, otherwise known as “fish lizards” were among the first reptiles to fully adapt to a life in a marine environment and most forms never ventured onto land, not even to lay eggs, as they were able to give birth to live young (viviparous). Superficially similar to dolphins, these marine reptiles evolved in the Early Triassic and survived for much of the Mesozoic, finally becoming extinct prior to the end of the Cretaceous. They were superbly well adapted to life in a marine environment and evolved into many different genera, some such as Shonisaurus reached lengths in excess of 15 metres or more.
The fossil discovered by the elderly gentleman in such an unusual way represents a single individual and it is estimated to be approximately 4 metres in length. The species has yet to be confirmed, but according to local experts it is likely to be excavated over the next few months and put on display at the Richmond museum.
An Illustration of a Typical Ichthyosaur
Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur
When asked what he thought about the unusual way in which the ichthyosaur fossil was discovered, Mr Stumkat stated:
“I just wish I could stop for a pee and stumble over something like that. They ate fish and squid and are not the sort of thing you trip over every day”.
It may be one of the more unusual methods for finding fossils but thanks to a weak bladder another fossilised marine reptile has been discovered.
To view models of an ichthyosaur and other marine reptiles on the Everything Dinosaur website: Dinosaurs, Marine Reptiles and Models of Prehistoric Animals.