The Last Days of an Ichthyosaur 110 million years ago
Pregnant, sick and weak, unable to eat, with just two small gastroliths
(grinding stones swallowed and used for breaking up food and ballast) and
three fish vertebrae in its stomach Ichthyosaur 960901, used its last
remaining energy to head out to deeper water.
Having made its way away from immediate predators, the 5 to 7 metre long
dolphin look-alike and its unborn baby, died.
Its body quickly bloated in the warm, shallow seas that existed then, 110
million years ago, causing it to float even higher in the water than in
After a while its rotting carcass was attacked and eaten; ribs and all.
Buoyancy was lost and the heavy head, with spinal column attached dropped
into the depths. The massive jaws speared into the oxygen poor gritty
The spinal column and attached flesh, having been relieved of the weight
of the head, was now able to float again, attached to the head anchored in
the mud. Eventually the remaining flesh was eaten or rotted and the spinal
bones deposited in a radial pattern on the surface of the mud.
Time passes. Mud rains on mud, deeper and deeper, slowly transforming bone
to rock. Flowering plants replace conifers, cycads and ferns. Mountains
build and erode. Time passes.The seas dry. The dinosaurs, rulers of the
earth reach their zenith, then fade. Volcanoes come and go. Snakes, birds
and bees appear. Mammals stalk the night and dominate the continents. They
return to the sea as whales. Time passes. Giant sharks rule the sea. Ice
ages come and go. Time passes. Rainforests cover Australia - gradually
drying. Rock, once bone is exposed - a chance contact with a human.
A skeleton in a perilous place is excavated. Fourteen days later a freak
storm, 200mm of rain in 24 hours, inundates the small gully; but the
skeleton is already safe. A three dimensional jigsaw puzzle is cleaned,
protected, reassembled over 3 months in the Home Economics room by the
students of Mount St. Bernard College and forwar