Boneyard? Or Nursery?
Posted: March 1, 2023
Is this a boneyard full of extinct animals? Or a place for a huge mommy reptile to have a baby?
It may be both.
Scientists studied a fossil site in Nevada. They say the huge ichthyosaur (ICK-thee-uh-sore) may have used the place as a birthing ground.
Ichthyosaurs became extinct long ago. Back in their day, though, they were a big deal . . . literally. Some grew to be bigger than a school bus! They swam underwater in the ocean and gobbled up prey using sharp teeth.
Once, water covered the Nevada fossil site. Now the spot sits in a dry, dusty landscape near an abandoned mining town. People dug up the ichthyosaur fossils in the 1950s. For years, paleontologists wondered: Why did all these ichthyosaurs die together in this one spot? Did some terrible disaster strike and kill them at the same time?
Now researchers have a new idea. They describe it in a journal called Current Biology.
Nicholas Pyenson, one of the researchers, says, “This was a place where giant ichthyosaurs came to give birth.”
Researchers identified fossils from at least 37 ichthyosaurs scattered around the area. The bones were preserved in different rock layers. This suggests the creatures could have died years apart rather than all at once.
They spotted some tiny bones too. These may have belonged to baby ichthyosaurs.
What didn’t the researchers find?
Juveniles, or kid-aged ichthyosaurs. If a sudden calamity had wiped them out, every life stage should be included in the group.
The researchers’ conclusion? The creatures traveled to the site in groups for protection as they gave birth. Whales and sharks behave the same way today.
Why? God created animals with instincts to migrate for mating, eating, and reproducing. The whole Earth is full of His glory and kindness.