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Recent advances in British palaeontology

Posted by David Penney on

These are exciting times for British palaeontology, with new important discoveries being documented in the scientific literature on a reasonably frequent basis. Some recent examples that spring to mind include the new Welsh theropod dinosaur Dracoraptor hanigani, the new ichthyosaur species Eileanchelys waldmani from the Isle of Skye, Scotland and most recently the description of two new species of Ichthyosaurus, by Dean Lomax and Judy Massare, in a paper just published in the journal Papers in Palaeontology.

Dean Lomax with ichthyosaur

Dean is well known as the co-presenter of the TV documentary Dinosaur Britain and also as co-author of our highly acclaimed book: Dinosaurs of the British Isles. Dean will be talking about his new ichthyosaur research at a special meeting of the Manchester Geological Society on 10 December at 13.30, to be held at the University of Manchester, UK. The title of the meeting is: Recent Discoveries in British Palaeontology and the title of Dean's talk is: The incredible Ichthyosaurus: a reassessment of a British Jurassic icon.

Talk abstract: Ichthyosaurus was the first ichthyosaur to be described, in 1821. Thousands of Ichthyosaurus fossils have been found in the UK, with most coming from the Jurassic Coast, Dorset, and from inland quarries in Somerset. By 1900, over 50 different species of Ichthyosaurus were described from fossils across the globe, but most of these were subsequently identified as different types. Within the last 20 years only three species of the genus were identified, Ichthyosaurus communis, I. breviceps and I. conybeari, but they were poorly defined. In recent years, palaeontologist Dean Lomax, in collaboration with Prof. Judy Massare, have begun to completely revise Ichthyosaurus by examining hundreds of specimens held in museums in the UK, Europe and North America. In doing so, they have provided a better understanding of the previously recognised species and have identified at least three new species to science.

This meeting (open to all) will comprise four talks from the following speakers: Cindy Howells (National Museum Wales), Dean Lomax (University of Manchester), Dr Russell Garwood (University of Manchester) and Dr Jenny Clack (TW:eed project), so should be a highly informative event covering a range of fossil types, geological settings and study techniques. For updates and more info check out the MUGS website.

We will be bringing a limited number of our new title: So you want to be a palaeontologist? Practical advice for fossil enthusiasts of all ages which will be available for the special price of £7.50 (25% off the RRP!). This will make a great last minute Christmas stocking filler for anybody interested in fossils. However, if you are unable to make this meeting do not worry, you can get the same discount via our website using the code MUGS2016, valid for one week only (expires 26 October). Click the cover image below to see more information, including reviews and to order your copy (remember to apply the code at checkout).

So you want to be a palaeontologist

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