In June 2021 a fascinating talk was delivered virtually for BRLSI by Prof. Michael Benton about the “sea dragons” of the Mesozoic era. This short video offers some details of recent excavations at the Strawberry Bank site near Ilminster which has yielded many extraordinary fossils including some that have contributed towards Prof. Benton’s research. The ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs and other marine reptiles of the Mesozoic were amazing predators. New analytical methods are helping palaeontologists to extract enormous amounts of new information from the fossils, and to use this to work out their modes of life (how they swam, diets; reproduction) as well as major events in their evolution. We can work out swimming speeds, improvements in swimming efficiency, the snappiness of their jaws, and how they were affected by multiple extinction events. Prof. Benton’s reviewed the history from Mary Anning onwards, but the key focus was on how we can use fossils and modern computing methods to establish some key facts about palaeobiology and macroevolution.
If you enjoyed this talk, you might like to explore more videos on Science.