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Lower Jurassic ichthyosaur skull and endocranium in digital reconstruction

Ben Creisler

A new paper:

Ryan D. Marek, Benjamin C. Moon, Matt Williams and Michael J. Benton (2015)
The skull and endocranium of a Lower Jurassic ichthyosaur based on
digital reconstructions.
Palaeontology (advance online publication)
DOI: 10.1111/pala.12174

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Data and supporting information for this study are available in the
Dryad Digital Repository:


Even after 200 years of study, some details of the cranial anatomy of
ichthyosaurs, one of the most successful groups of marine vertebrates
in the Mesozoic, are still unclear. New information on the braincase,
palate and occiput are provided from three-dimensional scans of an
exceptionally preserved ichthyosaur (‘Hauffiopteryx’ typicus) skull
from the Toarcian (183–174 Ma, Lower Jurassic) of Strawberry Bank,
England. This ichthyosaur has unusual, hollow, tubular hyoid bars. The
occipital and braincase region is fully reconstructed, creating the
first digital cranial endocast of an ichthyosaur. Enlarged optic lobes
and an enlarged cerebellum suggest neuroanatomical adaptations that
allowed it to be a highly mobile, visual predator. The olfactory
region also appears to be enlarged, suggesting that olfaction was more
important for ichthyosaurs than has been assumed. Phylogenetic
analysis suggests this ichthyosaur is closely related to, but distinct
from, Hauffiopteryx, and positioned within Thunnosauria, a more
derived position than previously recovered. These results further our
knowledge of ichthyosaur cranial anatomy in three dimensions and
provide a platform in which to study the anatomical adaptations that
allowed ichthyosaurs to dominate the marine realm during the Mesozoic.

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