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‘Sea monster’ skull reveals secrets more than 60 years after its discovery

CT-scan of the skull
(The University of Manchester)

Scientists have used 3-D technology to unlock the secrets of a prehistoric marine reptile skull.

The huge marine ichthyosaur skull, which is nearly 200 million years old, was found in an English farmer in 1955. Ichthyosaurs roamed the seas during the time of the dinosaurs.

A team of researchers in the united kingdom has now used the data from the CT scans for the digital build of the skull, which is almost 3.3 ft long.

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Experts from the University of Manchester, University College London and the University of Cambridge participated in the groundbreaking project, which is described in the science journal PeerJ.

Artist’s impression of the ichthyosaur.
(Bob Nicholls)

“It is the first time that a digital reconstruction of a skull and lower jaw of a large marine reptile has ever been made available for research purposes and for the public,” the University of Manchester, explains in a statement.

The skull, discovered in 1955, is not complete, although the various bones of the part of the skull that the brain are present. Scientists note that this “braincase” section is rarely kept in ichthyosaurs.

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“The fossil is any preserved bones of the left side of the braincase; however, with the help of CT scans, these elements were digitally flipped and 3D printed at actual size to complete the braincase,” explains the University of Manchester in her statement.

The ichthyosaur skull (The University of Manchester)

The whole prehistoric skull also underwent a CT scan in the U. K.’s Royal Veterinary College on a scanner that is usually used for horses and other large animals.

“It is more than half a century for this ichthyosaur to be studied and described, but it has been worth the wait,” said Dean Lomax, a paleontologist at the University of Manchester and the study’s lead author, in the statement. “Not only has our study revealed exciting information about the internal anatomy of the skull of the animal, but our findings will help with other palaeontologists in exploring the evolutionary relationship with other ichthyosaurs.”

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Other researchers have also 3-D technology to shed a new light on the prehistoric fossils. In a separate project last year, for example, paleontologists used 3-D scanning and printing to work on the bone structure of a newly discovered ‘Dynamoterror’ dinosaur.

Fox News’ Chris Ciaccia, contributed to this article.

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