Wednesday, March 09, 2005

New Ichythosaur Unveiled

The Fort Francis Times reports on the unveiling of a new marine reptile, Shonisaurus sikanniensis, a species of ichthyosaur, at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. The event marked the culmination of a large-scale effort following the 1994 discovery of the marine reptile’s long and slender remains, said Royal Tyrrell curator Don Brinkman.

Shonisaurus sikanniensis is the legacy of Royal Tyrrell’s Betsy Nicholls (L), who collected and prepared the nearly complete skeleton found along British Columbia’s Sikanni Chief River. The 56-year-old good friend of the palaeoblog died of cancer in November but not before seeing through the major life achievement that began with the challenging excavation in 1998 and lasted until 2000, when she won an award for dedication to the project.

Nicholls and Japan’s Makoto Manabe described Shonisaurus sikanniensis as a three-metre-long creature with a thin-boned skull and no signs of teeth, although it’s believed this species of ichthyosaur lost them as it grew.

“Imagine a dolphin at whale size but not quite as big as a blue whale, the world’s largest animal,” Don Brinkman, Head of Research at the RTMP said.

“It’s the first evidence we have of filter-feeding animals—those that take in water and screen out small food particles, much like a whale does,” he added.