Classification: Ichthyosauria. Ichthyosauridae.
Genus: Ichthyosaurus (“Fish Lizard”)
Species: I. communis, I. breviceps, I. conybeari, I.anningae, I. larkini, I. somersetensis
Ichthyosaurs had long snouts with pointed teeth, designed for grabbing prey such as cephalopods (squids) and small fish.
Their large eyes, which featured a protective bony ring, were similar to those of today’s giant squids, suggesting they may have hunted at night, or in the deep sea where little light penetrates.
Fossils have been discovered showing Ichthyosaurus in the act of giving birth, which led scientists to believe they birthed live young rather than laying eggs.
Ichthyosaurus was small for an ichthyosaur. Some species, such as Shonisaurus and Shastasaurus, could grow up to 50 feet long, almost 5times as long as Ichthyosaurus.
Like modern dolphins, Ichthyosaurs had sleek bodies, triangular dorsal fins, paddle-shaped pectoral flippers, and long pointed beaks. However, their tails were vertically oriented like fish, rather than horizontal like a dolphin’s. Their resemblance to fish and whales is a result of convergent evolution, when two unrelated organisms develop similar traits to adapt to their environment.
Ichthyosaurs were reptiles, but they weren’t dinosaurs. They descended from reptiles that became amphibious (living on land and in water)and then fully aquatic during the Late Permian and Early Triassic Periods.
Ichthyosaurs were visual hunters, and had very large eyes.
LENGTH: 3.3 meters (11 feet)
Ichthyosaurs were marine reptiles, living in the oceans and seas of the Triassic and Jurassic Periods. They inhabited the open ocean, and were not restricted to coastal areas.