Rare specimens from the Triassic Period on display at 'Sea Monsters' exhibition
Anyone interested in the study of extinct organisms and their fossils should not miss the exhibition "Secrets of Sea Monsters," running through August 25, at the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History.
Rare specimens dating back to the Triassic period showcase fauna that have disappeared into pre-history.
The Triassic period extended from roughly 252-201 million years ago. It was the first geological period in the Mesozoic era, and lies between the Permian and Jurassic periods. Both the start and end of the period were marked by major extinction events.
The exhibition mainly displays four types of creatures living in that period, the ichthyosaur, thalattosaur, placodus and sauropterygia. As most specimens were found in China, visitors could imagine how the land looked millions of years ago.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is the Glyphoderma kangi (康氏雕甲龟龙) – a long extinct animal belonging to the placodus genus. Paleontologists believe this marine reptile became extinct at the end of the Triassic period.
The reptiles usually grew to between 1 to 2 meters in length, with some of the largest measuring 3 meters long. Since the first fossil was discovered in 1830, paleontologists have found fossilized remains throughout central Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and China.
The displayed specimen was discovered in Fuyuan County, Yunnan Province. As the exhibit shows, the Glyphoderma kangi had dense bones and heavy armor, which would have offered protection from predators, but would have also hampered mobility on land, making it slow and clumsy out of water. Therefore, scientists consider that it lived in shallow waters and not in deep oceans.
Its large, flat, protruding teeth suggest the reptiles crushed marine bivalve mollusks and brachiopods. Their teeth were extremely thick and large enough to crush thick shells.
The Yunguisaurus liae (李氏云贵龙) is rare in Triassic marine assemblages with only a few fossils found in central Europe, the United States and China.
The exhibited Yunguisaurus liae is well-known for its almost complete skeleton, with the only missing part being a distal tail. It is believed to be one of the best-preserved pistosaurs in the world.
The generic name of Yunguisaurus is derived from the Yungui Plateau, which is named after the Yunnan and Guizhou provinces where the holotype was found, and "saurus", which means "lizard" in Greek.
The specific name also honors Professor Li Jinling for contributing to the study of Chinese Triassic marine vertebrate fauna.
Another highlight is the Anshunsaurus wushaensis (乌沙安顺龙), the first variety of thalattosaur found in China.
It was a prehistoric marine reptile that lived during the mid-late Triassic period, and had a long neck, a slender skull, and a long, paddle-like tail. It also has short spines with ridges on their upper surface, a short fourth digit on its hand, a well-developed entepicondyle on its humerus, and a short jugal bone.
The Chaohusaurus geishanensis (龟山巢湖鱼龙) was named and described by professors Yang Zhongjian and Dong Zhiming in 1972.
The generic name refers to Chaohu Lake and the Guishan area in present-day Anhui Province.
Chaohusaurus is a basal ichthyopterygian. It thus shows traits that are typical for the direct ancestors of ichthyosaurs, including short and wide skull roof, and relatively short snout that is only about twice as long as the part behind the eye-socket.
Unlike later ichthyosaurs with their dolphin-like form, Chaohusaurus had a more lizard-like appearance with an elongated body. According to research, they did have flippers instead of webbed feet.
Chaohusaurus is one of the smallest known ichthyopterygians. Its length was estimated at half a meter. The latest finds have increased this to about 180 centimeters.
Date: Through August 25 (closed on Mondays), 9am-5pm
Venue: Zhejiang Museum of Natural History
Admission: 60 yuan per adult, 30 yuan per child. 100 yuan for 2 adults and 1 child together.
Address: No. 6, West Lake Cultural Square