Ichthyosaur Vertebrae, Holzmaden Germany. This is a beautifully preserved vertebrae and contains part of the vertebrae process on top.
Ichthyosaurs are large extinct marine reptiles. Ichthyosaurs belong to the order known as Ichthyosauria or Ichthyopterygia (‘fish flippers’ – a designation introduced by Sir Richard Owen in 1842, although the term is now used more for the parent clade of the Ichthyosauria).
Ichthyosaurs thrived during much of the Mesozoic era; based on fossil evidence, they first appeared around 250 million years ago (Ma) and at least one species survived until about 90 million years ago, into the Late Cretaceous. During the Early Triassic epoch, ichthyosaurs and other ichthyosauromorphs evolved from a group of unidentified land reptiles that returned to the sea, in a development similar to how the mammalian land-dwelling ancestors of modern-day dolphins and whales returned to the sea millions of years later, which they gradually came to resemble in a case of convergent evolution. Ichthyosaurs were particularly abundant in the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic periods, until they were replaced as the top aquatic predators by another marine reptilian group, the Plesiosauria, in the later Jurassic and Early Cretaceous, though previous views of ichthyosaur decline during this period are probably overstated. Ichthyosaurs diversity declined due to environmental volatility caused by climatic upheavals in the early Late Cretaceous, becoming extinct around the Cenomanian-Turonian boundary approximately 90 million years ago.