An extinct marine reptile with a strong resemblance to a shark, still containing its final meal before it died and afflicted by a flipped fin, has become Doncaster’s newest 183-million-year-old resident following complex conservation work.
Known by curators as Fizzy, the Ichthyosaur has had two upper arm bones removed by Nigel Larkin, the palaeontologist behind the CIRCA interpretation project which has already seen a number of prehistoric aquatic specimens switch from the South Yorkshire town to Scarborough.
The University of London’s Royal Veterinary College examined one of the bones, using scans to pinpoints its death on a decomposing fin which became detached from its body, flipped over and lodged itself on the opposite, eroded fin.
Their discoveries explain why collectors, who reassembled Fizzy’s body to make it more attractive to commercial fossil dealers, described Fizzy’s fins as being “the wrong way round” when the body was found near Lyme Regis during the late 1970s.
The Ichthyosaur proved one of the most popular exhibits during the museum’s Fabulous Fossils display three years ago.
“Fizzy is part of our fantastic fossil collection that visitors have said they want to see more of,” says Bob Johnson, Doncaster’s Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure.
“We have an incredible collection here which people should be proud of.
“Fizzy went away to have some work done as part of the project to revitalise the collections, launched in response to visitor feedback.
“The operation has shed more light on Fizzy.”
Cracks in the specimen have been filled in, stabilising a fossil rediscovered by assistant curator Dean Lomax in 2008.
A non-swimming species, ichthyosaurs are thought to have grown to around 75 feet high.