Scientists have discovered part of the skeleton of a 180-million-year-old ichthyosaur , who died with between six and eight embryos between her ribs.
The remains were discovered in Whitby, North Yorkshire, and date back to the Early Jurassic period.
Ichthyosaurs were common aquatic reptiles, and remains are found fairly regularly in the UK.
However, only five ichthyosaur specimens from the UK have ever been found with embryos – and none with this many.
As well as being the first embryo-bearing ichthyosaur recorded from Yorkshire, the new specimen is also geologically the youngest of the British embryo-bearing specimens.
The skeleton was found in a small boulder, that was cut in half and polished, exposing several large ribs, and several small bones.
Mike Boyd, one of the researchers who worked on the study, said: "We also considered the possibility that the tiny remains could be stomach contents, although it seemed highly unlikely that an ichthyosaur would swallow six to eight aborted embryos or newborn ichthyosaurs at one time.
“And this does not seem to have been the case, because the embryos display no erosion from stomach acids.
“Moreover, the embryos are not associated with any stomach contents commonly seem in Early Jurassic ichthyosaurs, such as the remains of squid-like belemnites”.
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