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Reconstruction of Life, 1819-1824

Reconstruction Ichth
Reconstruction of the skeleton of an ichthyosaur, by W D Conybeare, 1824.  From W D Conybeare, "On the Discovery of an almost perfect Skeleton of the Plesiosaurus. Transactions of the Geological Society of London, S2-1 (1824).  GSL Library collections.

Everard Home was not the only Member of the Geological Society interested in ichthyosaurs.  The next major papers on ichthyosaurs were published by Henry De la Beche (1796-1855, GSL membership no.426) and William Daniel Conybeare (1787-1857, GSL membership no.200).  The image above, described as one of the first three dimensional reconstructions of an extinct vertebrate, was created by Conybeare and published in 1824.  The skeleton was based primarily on a [now lost] fossil specimen found by Mary Anning which was purchased by subscription for £50 and presented to the Bristol Institution by a number of its members (including Conybeare) on 4 January 1823.

W D Conybeare aged 65 years. GSL Archive ref: GSL/POR/58/3.

De la Beche had been living in Lyme since 1812 and had acquired several specimens of ichthyosaurs himself.  By 1819, after researching partial specimens in other collections he had identified three species – the smaller and most common Ichthyosaurus communis [sometimes referred to as vulgaris]; the longer-snouted Ichthyosaurus tenuirostris; and the larger, flatter-toothed Ichthyosaurus platydon

The Reverend William Daniel Conybeare, who had met De la Beche at a meeting of the Oxford Geological Club in Bristol in 1818, had his interest in extinct marine reptiles sparked by the fossil collection of his Bristol neighbour George Weare Braikenridge (1775-1856, GSL membership no.630), but within the Bristol area there were a number of other private fossil collections which held examples of ichthyosaur material to be studied.  It was whilst Conybeare and De la Beche were collaborating on a paper trying to pin down the skeletal anatomy of ichthyosaurs that they came across fossil bones which clearly belonged to another marine reptile.

Click on the images below to see what the creature was:

Plesiosaur thumb
  Reconstructing a new animal, 1821
Plesiosaur thumb 2
  Plesiosaurus dolichodeirus, 1823

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