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Researchers identified six embryos, but suggest there are likely two more. But, as Boyd says in the press release: He adds that if the creature had consumed the embryos, they would expect to observe some erosion of the bones from stomach acids.

Fossilized plesiosaur was carrying embryo 78 million years ago, proof of live birthing

And the embryos were not floating among other expected bits of ichthyosaurs' favorite foods, he notes, such as squid-like belemnites. But, as Dvorsky reports, ichthyosaurs were commonly 13 feet long as adults and gave birth to as many as 11 young. According to the press release, eight different species of ichthyosaur have been found with embryos, the most common being the Stenopterygius. Even the first ichthyosaur fossil found contained an embryo, Dvorsky notes. The new specimen is currently on display at the Yorkshire Museum in a new major exhibition called Yorkshire's Jurassic World.

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Sea monster

The Art of Secrets and Surveillance. At the Smithsonian Visit. Photos Submit to Our Contest. Egg-laying animals typically deposit eggs holding embryos that are much less developed than the one found inside the mother Dinocephalosaurus , the research team noted. In addition, the researchers said that they did not see any evidence of an eggshell near the embryo, further supporting the idea that the Dinocephalosaurus gave live birth, they said.

Dinocephalosaurus was an archosauromorph Greek for "ruling lizard form" , a relative of the group that includes crocodiles, pterosaurs and dinosaurs, including birds. The new discovery pushes back evidence of reproductive biology in the Archosauromorpha group by 50 million years, Liu said.

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In addition, the discovery solves a mystery about egg laying in most archosauromorphs. The finding is an "extraordinary" one, and demonstrates how "evolution never really attains the optimal solution," said Kenneth Lacovara, a professor of paleontology and the dean of the School of Earth and Environment at Rowan University in New Jersey, who was not involved in the study. The finding shows that "egg laying in the group that spans crocodiles to birds is not a deficit of their nature," Lacovara told Live Science.

The alternative was possible, but that was not selected for. Moreover, the fossils show that " Dinocephalosaurus determined the sex of its babies genetically," Liu said.


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Live birth known as viviparity has evolved independently at least times in living lizards and snakes, and at least once in the common ancestor of mammals, the researchers said. However, Dinocephalosaurus is hardly the only ancient marine reptile that gave live birth; a million-year-old ichthyosaur fossil shows that a mother died during a breech birth, Live Science reported previously.


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  • The new study was published online today Feb. Original article on Live Science. As a senior writer for Live Science, Laura Geggel covers general science, including the environment and amazing animals.

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    Laura grew up in Seattle and studied English literature and psychology at Washington University in St. Louis before completing her graduate degree in science writing at NYU. When not writing, you'll find Laura playing Ultimate Frisbee.


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