Torvosaurus gurneyi

Late afternoon, Kimmeridgian Age, Iberia: The reigning monarch of Late Jurassic Europe, a ten meter Torvosaurus gurneyi wanders from hunting grounds further inland, drawn to the shore by the scent of almost-fresh seafood (an unfortunate ichthyosaur, Ophthalmosaurus), as the nimble pterosaur Scaphognathus soars on storm-fed winds, searching for fish. The massive dinosaurian predator’s bones will eventually be buried, fossilized, and, after 150 million years, found by human eyes searching the Lourinhã Formation of modern-day Portugal.

I’ve made an attempt at digital music to accompany this digital painting, a soundtrack for the image, if you will, and the track can be found at my new Soundcloud page, here:


A higher resolution version can be found at my DeviantArt page, here:


The descriptive paper on the dinosaur and more information from one of the authors, Christophe Hendrickx, can be found at the following:



And check out the great Scott Hartman’s updated skeletal reconstruction, here:


Torvosaurus gurneyi was named in honor of the incomparable James Gurney, world-renowned paleoartist and creator of Dinotopia, and, personally, a lifelong source of inspiration. Mr. Gurney also has an excellent blog, which can be found at:


Please do not use or reproduce this image without permission, and thanks for viewing (and listening)!

The eye lizard, Ophthalmosaurus (1874)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Reptilia
Order : Ichthyosauria
Family : Ophthalmosauridae
Subfamily : Ophthalmosaurinae
Genus : Ophthalmosaurus
Species : O. icenicus, O. natans, O. saveljeviensis, O. yasykovi

  • Jurassic (165 - 145 Ma)
  • 6 m long and 2 000 kg (size)
  • Ocans worldwide (map)

Like other ichthyosaurs, Ophthalmosaurus gave birth to its pups tail-first to avoid drowning them. Skeletons of unhatched young have been found in over fifty females on fossil finds, and litter sizes ranged from two to eleven pups.

Ophthalmosaurus had a body shaped like a tear-drop and a caudal fin like a half-moon. Its forelimbs were more developed than the hind ones, which suggests that the front fins did the steering while the tail did the propelling. Ophthalmosaurus’ chief claim to fame is its eyes which, at 4 inches in diameter, were extremely large in proportion to its body. The eyes occupied almost all of the space in the skull and were protected by bony plates (sclerotic rings), which most likely assisted to maintain the shape of the eyeballs against water pressure at depth. The size of the eyes and the sclerotic rings suggests that Ophthalmosaurus hunted at a depth where there is not much light or that it may have hunted at night when a prey species was more active.

Calculations suggest that a typical Ophthalmosaurus could stay submerged for approximately 20 minutes or more . The swimming speed of Ophthalmosaurus has been estimated at 2.5 m/s or greater, but even assuming a conservative speed of 1 m/s, an Ophthalmosaurus would be able to dive to 600 meters and return to the surface within 20 minutes.

In the bone joints of Ophthalmosaurus skeletons traces of decompression sickness (the bends) have been found, possibly caused as a result of evasive tactics. Modern whales have been known to get the bends when ascending rapidly to escape predators.


A study of Saurian morphology: Ichthyosauromorpha (part 3)

Cute. Fish. Lizards.

These three genera represent the diversity ichthyosaurs throughout the Jurassic before their numbers declined in Late Jurassic: Temnodontosaurus, known for being one of the larger predatory ichthyosaurs; Excalibosaurus, named after the sword Excalibur for its swordfish-like appearance; and Ophthalmosaurus, famed for its proportionally large eyes which might likely be useful for low-light hunting at night or deeper parts of the ocean.

I’m done with all these daily saurs holy crap. Expect to see the updated phylogenetic tree sometime throughout the week. Also, uploaded this one day early because I’ll be out of town tomorrow.

My next daily project will involve… snails. Blame @cyan-biologist for it.

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Ichthyosaur Discovery:  Ancient Marine Reptiles Inhabited the Icy Waters of the North

by Nick Garland

New ichthyosaur fossil discoveries in Arctic Russia indicate that these marine reptiles were adapted to life in icy polar regions.

A team of paleontologists from Russia and Germany has found more evidence that ichthyosaurs during the Mesozoic Era inhabited cold water in the northern latitudes. Ichthyosaurs were a group of marine reptiles superficially resembling dolphins that plied the seas in great numbers during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods of geologic time.

Fossil remains of two individuals were studied in this research. The first, an ichthyosaur called Arthropterygius, was found in a museum collection in Moscow and was collected in the 1940s on a riverbank in northern Siberia. The second specimen, an Ophthalmosaurus, an ichthyosaur named after its large eyes, was collected in 2013 near the Kanin Peninsula even farther to the north…

(read more: Earth Archives)

illustration by Andrey Atuchin