A new method of radiological analysis helped identify an ancient marine reptile on Spitsbergen

An ancient marine reptile found on Svalbard has been identified thanks to advanced X-ray analysis. The remains of the creature were discovered back in 2008, but only now have scientists been able to conduct a detailed analysis. They determined that it was an ichthyosaur, or a close relative of the species Phalarodon atavus.

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE, and it is briefly reported by Phys.org. The remains of the ancient creature were literally compressed, flattened into shale, which made them difficult to identify. But thanks to the latest technology, scientists were able to obtain clear X-ray images that revealed new details, particularly the features of the skull and teeth.

The found reptile lived on Earth about 240 million years ago, when Spitsbergen did not yet exist. After it died, it sank to the seabed and was buried in the silt. Over time, it turned into an extremely flat fossil.

As part of the study, scientists also examined the mineralogy of fossils from the same formation, identifying several forms of sulfate minerals. The formation of such minerals is still poorly understood, but the process presumably could have been related to ancient volcanic activity.

This is a very important discovery for science, since ichthyosaurs are some of the most interesting and mysterious creatures that ever lived on Earth. They were large marine reptiles that appeared on Earth before the dinosaurs. They could be up to 15 meters long and weigh 15 tons. Ichthyosaurs were predators and lived in the oceans for more than 150 million years.

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