Introducing a beautifully preserved 245 million year old marine reptile embryo from China.

An exquisitely preserved fossil of an embryo of extinct marine reptile has been described from China from rocks that are about 245 million years old. The curled-up embryo is about 3.5 cm in diameter and even the minute and very slender gastralia (“abdominal ribs”) are beautifully displayed. If we were able to unroll the embryo we would see that it represents a very long-necked animal that is closely related to Dinocephalosaurus - a remarkable animal growing up to 5 metres long and with a neck longer than the tail and rest of the body combined.

Although it is almost certainly a completely new species, the international research team from National Museums Scotland, the Field Museum (Chicago), and Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (Beijing) postulate that the embryo was not contained by an egg shell but that it was enclosed by a soft membrane and the parent gave birth to live young at sea. The researchers refrained from erecting a new name for the reptile: as a neonate it almost certainly has not developed many of the features that would diagnose the adult form and typically palaeontologists only erect new species based on more mature individuals. So the hunt is now on for the parent of such a youngster!

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Closing Romer's Gap: The story so far

If the first four-legged animals had never emerged from water onto land, our world today would not exist. Yet how did this great step happen? The mystery is finally being solved – and fossils discovered in Scotland lie at the heart of the story.

Westlothiana lizziae

This very important fossil, affectionately known as ‘Lizzie', was discovered in Scotland in the 1980s and could be the earliest known reptile.

Fossil Tales

Fossils have always fascinated and intrigued people, but their true nature has not always been understood. Long before scientific understanding of fossils as evidence of ancient lifeforms, myths and legends were used to make sense of these unexplained objects.
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Discover the story of Scottish pop music as we take you on a musical journey from the 1950s to the present day in our new exhibition.

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