Jurassic Ichthyosaurs split food resources to co-exist in harmony
Researchers at the University of Bristol performed new studies on Ichthyosaur skulls that revealed how they divided food resources among themselves. Some had long snouts for fast hunting, while others had smaller ones with more powerful bite force for slower prey. It’s stunning to see how they lived so many millions of years ago.
In this quick news article, I’ll share some of the findings with you as well as the visuals. You’ll also see the interesting details of how these marine reptiles shared the food while specializing on a specific type of prey.
Image provided by Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution Collections
Ichthyosaurs from the Early Jurassic divided food among them
The University of Bristol is busy with a new study on how Ichthyosaurs developed different snouts so they could eat specific food and share the ocean’s wealth among them. Also called Sea Dragons, Sarah Jamison-Todd is busy performing the analysis as part of her degree in Paleobiology. Here are some notes from her findings, delivered under the supervision of Dr. Ben Moon who happens to be part of the university’s School of Earth Sciences.
Different snouts among Ichthyosaurs
If you’ve been following dinosaur discoveries for some time now, you may be familiar with Mary Anning. About 200 years ago, this paleontologist discovered several Ichthyosaur skills in England, specifically in the Lyme Regis region. It’s based on these bones that Sarah is performing her latest studies.
The report was issued in the Journal of Anatomy. As Ben explained, they used CT scans on the skulls:
“The scans allowed us to make a detailed, 3D model of the skull in the computer, and it can then be tested for the likely forces experienced during biting.”
Focusing on specific food types
What the scans revealed is that there were Ichthyosaurs with long, slender snouts and those with short, broad snouts. It appears that the former had a weaker bite force, so it hunted for faster prey that were easier to bite and swallow. The latter had stronger jaws and teeth, but they would aim for slower prey with more armor or protection.
One of the supervisors, Andrew Rowe, explains:
“We tested and confirmed the hypothesis that the slender-snouted ichthyosaur had a quick but weak bite, and the broad-snouted ichthyosaur had a slow but powerful bite.”
Other research possibilities
One of the authors of the report is Professor Michael Benton. His excitement of the findings extends into the possibility of future research. Today’s whales and sharks eat anything they come across that will fill them, so Benton enjoyed finding a genus that specialized in a specific food.
According to Benton, these findings now lead the way into analyzing other marine reptiles from prehistoric times, such as the crocodile types and plesiosaurs. Perhaps they will see that these ancient beasts were also selective with different types of food among the species.
Image credit: Professor Michael Benton
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Imagine we lived in a world where different types of people were more selective about what they ate. One type only ate burgers, while another only ate fish. I’m not talking about pescetarians, but specifically an anatomical feature that made one type of food your focus.
For now, we look forward to seeing what this research into the Ichthyosaurs will present in the future and if it will help other research into marine reptiles. Until then, feel free to enjoy our dinosaur puzzle of the week and see how many clues you can solve.