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July 28, 2003 Ichthyosaurs, dolphin-like reptiles who swam through
prehistoric seas 230 to 90 million years ago, had quite a varied diet,
which included all manner of hunted and scavenged small-bodied prey,
according to a finding published in the current issue of the Proceedings
of the Royal Society London B.
"Specialization for feeding on squid-like animals has been considered a
possible cause for the ichthyosaurs ultimate extinction. This coincides
with a decline in belemnites during the mid-Cretaceous, about 90 million
years ago," paleontologist Ben Kear of the South Australian Museum in
Adelaide, told Discovery News.
However, the theory that a drought of belemnites forced ichthyosaurs into
extinction has been put into question as Kear and colleagues analyzed the
gut contents of a 110-million-year old fossilized pregnant ichthyosaurus
As he dissolved the limestone surrounding the fossil with acid, Kear found
that ichthyosaurs were more opportunistic feeders than thought. Indeed,
the stomach contents did not consist of belemnites, but of baby turtles
and bird remains, swallowed whole.