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How a selfie stick and fishing rod accessed an ancient skeleton to reveal the 145 million year old reptile

Reconstruction of the Nannopterygius fish lizard

This is an artistic reconstruction of life by Nannopterygius. Photo credit: Andrey-Atuchin

The skeleton of an extinct “fish lizard” that has been trapped in a glass cabinet 16 feet above the ground for the past 100 years has finally been examined using a selfie stick on a fishing rod.

The 145 million year old Nannopterygius is a species of ichthyosaurs that have been swimming the seas of our planet for approximately 76 million years. It’s on display at the Natural History Museum in London, but its glass display case is too high for easy inspection.

Russian paleontologist Nikolay Zverkov wanted to see the London specimen because he thought some of the Russian ichthyosaurs might be similar.

It turned out that he was right and that this particular type of swimming prehistoric reptile was widespread in his day law Period.

To photograph and evaluate the skeleton, Nikolay attached a digital camera to a selfie stick on a fishing rod and connected it to a PC using a very long USB cable. He passed the photos on University of Portsmouth The paleontologist Megan Jacobs, who worked on her ichthyosaurs for her master’s.

Nikolay Zverkov Marine Reptile Gallery

Nikolay Zverkov captures the ichthyosaur in the Marine Reptile Gallery of the Natural History Museum in London. Photo credit: Nikolay Zverkov

Megan and Nikolay have now published a paper on the results in the Linnean Society Zoological Journal.

Megan said: “Nicolay has received excellent detail photos that significantly expand our knowledge of Nannoptergyius enthekiodon.

“It became clear to me that the fossil expert Dr. Steve Etches had also discovered examples of this Nannoptergyius In the vicinity of where the original was found, he had discovered other examples across Britain.

“Finally being able to examine this enigmatic animal has shown that it was very widespread and widespread in the late Jurassic not only in England, but also in European Russia and the Arctic.”

Thanks to this new study, several more copies of Nannopterygius have been found in museum collections across the UK – in Oxford, Cambridge and in the Etches collection in Kimmeridge, Dorset, as well as in Russia and Norway, showing that this animal is much more common than previously thought and makes it one of the most widespread spread from similar swimming reptiles.

Dave Martill, professor of paleobiology at the University of Portsmouth, a leading global expert overseeing Megan’s research, said: “We have only had detailed knowledge of a type of ichthyosaur called so far Ophthalmosaurusknown from hundreds of specimens, including well-preserved skeletons from the Middle Clayassic Oxford Clay Formation of England.

“The excellent data that is available for Ophthalmosaurus in contrast to the impoverished records of other middle and late Jurassic ichthyosaurs that have access to ichthyosaurs Nannopterygius – a previously inaccessible specimen – has given us fascinating new insights into a particular species of ichthyosaurs that we knew very little about. “

Nikolay added: “Science has thought that for decades Nannopterygius was the rarest and least known ichthyosaur in England. Finally, we can say that we know almost every skeleton detail of these little ichthyosaurs and that these animals were widespread. The answer was very close – we just needed a fishing rod. “

Reference: “Revision of Nannopterygius (Ichthyosauria: Ophthalmosauridae): A re-evaluation of the” inaccessible “holotype releases a taxonomic tangle and shows an obscure ophthalmic line with a wide distribution” by Nikolay G Zverkov and Megan L Jacobs, May 15, 2020.Linnean Society Zoological Journal.
DOI: 10.1093 / zoolinnean / zlaa028

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