Researchers recently unearthed the remains of a new ichthyosaur species, proving that the mass extinction that happened 250 million years ago spared some of the reptiles. The Sclerocormus parviceps is proof that mass extinction events don’t affect the entire population of the Earth, leaving some behind, allowing life to prosper again.
Thanks to this new fossil discovered in China, scientists are now able to reconstruct the evolutionary path of reptiles better. Moreover, they can dismiss the theory that claims that marine reptiles evolved slowly after the Permian event.
According to the researchers, the last mass extinction was caused by volcanic activity, rising sea levels, and a shift in the concentration of atmosphere gasses. The one that we are currently facing was triggered by humankind and its rapid development.
The specimen discovered in China is an early form of an ichthyosaur. It looks more like a dolphin than an actual reptile due to the fact that it doesn’t have the razor-sharp teeth that the species was known for. Its discovery points to the fact that the early ichthyosaurus specimens evolved quite rapidly in the first period of the Triassic.
The fossil that was unearthed is 1.6 meters (5.2 feet) long, has no teeth, and what looks like a powerful back fin. The researchers that studied it believe that this early marine dinosaur used its toothless snout to suck food, just like you would use a syringe to draw liquid from a vial.
It was this weird anatomic particularity that prompted the team to name it the Sclerocormus parviceps. The name combines the Greek “skleros” which means stiff, and “kormos,” which roughly translates into trunk. The second name is made out of the Latin “parvus” and “caput” that means “small skull.”
Some scientists are saying that the discovery of the early ichthyosaurus is contradicting the basic terms of Darwin’s evolutionary theory.
“Darwin’s model of evolution consists of small, gradual changes over a long period of time, and that’s not quite what we’re seeing here. These ichthyosaurus seem to have evolved very quickly, in short bursts of lots of change, in leaps and bounds.”
Even though the Sclerocormus parviceps can’t help us understand Darwin’s theory better, or stop the ongoing mass extinction event, it does shed some light on the ways in which we can approach the extinction event.
Image source: Wikimedia