Fishy mystery


COMPUTERS have helped palaeontologists to solve a puzzle about fish-shaped reptiles called ichthyosaurs that cruised the seas 250 to 65 million years ago. The relationship of ichthyosaurs to dinosaurs and other reptiles has been unclear because of a lack of good fossils. Japanese palaeontologists found one in 1982, but tectonic forces had warped the rock it was in, making it difficult to interpret. Now Ryosuke Motani of the University of California at Berkeley has found out how the sample was distorted and used computer simulation to work out the original three-dimensional shape of the skull. By comparing the fossil with other animals, he has shown that ichthyosaurs are members of an advanced group of reptiles called the diapsids, which have two openings in their skulls ( Nature, vol 393, p 255). They are closely related to the Sauria,
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