Scientists from North Carolina State University (NCSU) have reported discovery of an ancient marine reptile from the remains of its fossiled blubber which shows that the animal lived nearly 180 million years ago. The ancient sea monster referred to as ichthyosaur was a rare example of warm blooded reptile and its preserved skin is smooth to the touch like whales and dolphins. It outer layer was a little flexible that could have been helpful for it to camouflage itself but it did not have scales which is characteristic of most dinosaur era animals. Its body color was dark on upper surface and light on the lower section which could have been due to natural light exposure.
Prof Mary Schweitzer the co-author of this discovery report says that study of Ichthyosaurs is interesting as several of their traits are similar to dolphins of today though they are not closely related to these modern mammals. Their similarity in appearance to whales shows that both whales and ichthyosaurs adopted similar strategies to adapt themselves to marine. They also have many features that are common with marine turtles of today but gave birth to young ones which is the trait of warm blooded creatures.
They had blubber like some marine animals like whales and adult leatherback turtles that help them to maintain high body temperature like insulation irrespective of ocean temperature. It appears from this study that ichthyosaurs were able to maintain body temperatures like leatherback turtles under ocean waters and survive well in both warm and cold water environments but it is still unclear if they were truly endothermic animals. The blubber and skin of well persevered ichthyosaurs that is available at Germany’s Urweltmuseum Hauff. It was discovered at Hozmaden quarry which has produced several other Jurassic Era fossils that were so well preserved that it was possible to observe individual cellular layers of its skin.