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UC Davis Researchers Discover Fossil Of Amphibious Ichthyosaur

Stefano Broccoli / University of Milan / UC Davis

This illustration shows what a newly discovered amphibious ichthyosaur may have looked like when it was alive some 248 million years ago.

Stefano Broccoli / University of Milan / UC Davis

Researchers say they've discovered an amphibious ichthyosaur fossil in China.

The dolphin-like marine creature thrived in seas about 250 million to 150 million years ago. It had once lived on land.

UC Davis Earth and Planetary Sciences Professor Ryosuke Motani led the team that discovered the fossil.

He says Icthysaurus were the first gigantic reptile fossils that humans encountered.

"It looked like reptiles, but it looked like fish and that puzzled people at the time -- Georgian Age -- and since then, we've been looking for the transition from the land reptile to the sea reptile," says Motani.

Now, that "transition" or link, has been found.

Motani says the sea version of the reptile had an elongated snout, with a flipper that was unusually large and flexible.

He says he plans to look for more fossils in China next spring.

 UC Davis

Ed Joyce

Former All Things Considered Anchor & Reporter

Ed Joyce is a former reporter and All Things Considered news anchor at Capital Public Radio. Ed is a veteran journalist with experience in a variety of news positions across all media platforms, including radio, television, web and print.   Read Full Bio