The fossil had been in the collections of Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery for more than 30 years until Dr. Dean Lomax, a yong paleontologist and Honorary Scientist at The University of Manchester, UK, uncovered its hidden secrets. Dr. Dean first examined the fossil in 2008 when he noticed several abnormalities in the bone structure which made him think he had something previously unidentified. Working with Professor Judy Massare of Brockport College, New York, he spent over five years travelling the world to check his findings and a paper explaining the discovery was published online recently in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. Dr. Dean said: "After examining the specimen extensively, both Professor Massare and I identified several unusual features of the limb bones (humerus and femur) that were completely different [from] any other ichthyosaur known. That became very exciting. After examining perhaps over a thousand specimens, we found four others with the same features as the Doncaster fossil." Similarly shaped to dolphins and sharks, ichthyosaurs, which are often misidentified as “swimming dinosaurs,” swam the seas of the earth for millions of years during the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods, before being wiped out. The Doncaster fossil is between 189 million and 182 million years old, from a time in the early Jurassic period called the Pliensbachian. It is the world's most complete ichthyosaur of this age. "The recognition of this new species is very important for our understanding of ichthyosaur species diversity during the early Jurassic, especially from this time interval,” Dr. Dean added.
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