Incredible 'sea monster' fossil still has skin and blubber
The find confirms that some ancient reptiles' resemblance to dolphins wasn't just skin-deep.
Some 180 million years ago in what's now Germany, a dolphin-like reptile died and sank to the bottom of an ancient ocean. Remarkably, the creature's burial at sea preserved its body in stunning detail—including the first chemical clues that suggest these prehistoric animals had whale-like blubber.
The fossil, unveiled on December 5 in the journal Nature, preserves the body of a Stenopterygius, a type of marine reptile called an ichthyosaur that lived during the early Jurassic period. The animal's skin still bears folds and ripples, as well as cells that held some of the animal's pigmentation and the chemical traces of blubber. Controversially, researchers also claim that the remains still have vestiges of their original proteins.
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