Watch Our Video: Getting inside an Ichthyosaur’s Skull

Ever wondered what lay inside the skull of an ichthyosaur, one of the most successful groups of marine vertebrates swimming around in the warm seas of the Mesozoic? It’s not easy to get inside a fossil cranium, but BRLSI were recently able to offer their specimen, a fossil preserved in exceptional detail, to the School of Earth Sciences in Bristol for the most up to date three-dimensional scanning.

This allowed the researchers to examine the internal features and make a digital reconstruction of the hollow space inside the skull. Close examination of the anatomical details it revealed means they can now reassess how the ichthyosaurs lived and hunted their prey, and what special adaptations allowed them to become such skilled and deadly hunters.

This particular skull was one of many Jurassic fossils dug up near Ilminster in the 19th century, now part of the BRLSI Collections. It will be a star item in the summer exhibition, ‘Jurassic Ark’, which opens on 17th May. In addition you will be able to experience the Somerset Jurassic ecosystem in which our ichthyosaur lived, thrillingly recreated at large scale by one of the world’s foremost palaeontological illustrators, John Sibbick.

And if you’re still curious about Jurassic life, the world famous Professor Mike Benton of Bristol University begins our ‘Jurassic Ark’ series of lectures with an online talk on ‘The Life of the Mesozoic sea dragons’ on 2 June at 7.30pm.


To learn about how this skull has been studied using modern scientific techniques watch our video installation: Professor Ichthyosaurus  presents ‘Getting inside an Ichthyosaurs Skull’

Video editing by Dan Deegan

BRLSI thanks Professor Mike Benton, Dr Benjamin Moon, and Ryan Marek for their work in organising and undertaking this research. We also thank the Leverhulme Trust and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation for funding study of the Strawberry Bank Lagerstätte, and Lorie Barber for her preparatory work on the fossils.

The specific research outlined in this video was published in Palaeontology here
A scholarly review of the Strawberry Bank Lagerstätte can be found in the Journal of the Geological Society here
Background information on Strawberry Bank and our work though the Jurassic Ecosystem of Strawberry Bank Project can be found on our own site here

Music provided via under creative commons licences
Track 1 (00:14-03:13) ‘Horses’ by Pictures of the Floating World
Track 2 (03:13-05:42) ‘Recalling’ by Blear Moon
Track 3 (05:42-09:03) ‘Ash Gray’ by Pictures of the Floating World

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