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Dinosaurs In Literature, History and Art: Debunking the "150 Million Year Old Reptile" Ichthyosaur Mythology
Extinct for 95 Million Years, Maybe Not!
Convergent Ichthyosaur Evolution, A Fairy Tale........Page 80

by Chris Parker, Copy Right 2008

This "dolphin shaped ceramic from Eretria, 310 B.C., shares an important morphological characteristic with the ichthyosaurs. Click and drag to resize.

“The earliest dolphins appeared in the late Miocene period, some 11 million years ago. The land animals that are closest to whales and dolphins are the Ungulates (hoofed animals). This was determined among others by comparing the structure of body proteins. The closest relative is probably the hippopotamus”(Ursing and Arnason, 1998).”

That foregoing statement divides the world into three groups; those who are so “smart” that they have to believe it, (like PH’D’s) those who are gullible enough to believe something like that and –the rest of us. Thankfully, a majority of us still resist the evolution religion and are in the third group.

This article is ostensibly not about dolphins and whales but rather is about creatures that science has named “ichthyosaurs”, (fish-reptiles) and how they became classified by science as reptiles, unrelated to whales and dolphins, who supposedly died out more than 95 million years ago—some 85 million years prior to the evolution of dolphins who they most resemble morphologically.

In this brief article, I believe that we can show that there is; scant evidence that Ichthyosaurs were reptiles, or at least we can demonstrate that there is more evidence to show that they were Not reptiles, and that they did not become extinct millions of years ago and thus; are not an example of “convergent evolution”.

In addition, I intend to show that they were as you might expect, closely related to the Cetaceans like dolphins and porpoises. In short, the ichthyosaur as we know it through evolutionary science, is a hoax or a myth.

fossil ichthyosaur. Click and drag to resize.

Ichthyosaurs supposedly came on the scene 230 million years ago, even before dinosaurs, and thrived up until 95 million years ago. This would mean that they missed the time of the dolphin and the time of man. Man, it is thought, by evolutionists, never laid eyes on a living ichthyosaur—but only know them through their fossils and fossil impressions.

This is a difficult way to learn much about an extinct creature, in terms of how it looked, whether it was warm or cold blooded, and whether it was in fact a mammal a reptile or an amphibian.

Science may have caught a break in the case of the ichthyosaur however, because they did look so much like the cetaceans; the dolphin, the whale and the killer whales:

“It is often difficult to visualise the life appearance of extinct animals: quite simply because many of these animals are profoundly different from any we have living with us today. Perhaps, out of all the extinct types of Mesozoic reptile, ichthyosaurs are the easiest to visualise. Certain living marine animals - the speedy, open-water dolphins, lamnid sharks [Great white and relatives] and scombroid fishes [the tuna-mackerel group] - possess the ichthyosaur body shape and surely move in an ichthyosaur-like way.

So alike are all of these groups in their shape and presumably their behaviour that it has proved irresistible for artists to depict ichthyosaurs as “Mesozoic dolphins”?. They are shown traveling in schools, porpoising from the waves, and smoothly powering themselves beneath the surface with their forked, shark-like tails.….. Science Blog

Fossil Discovery and Classification

“The genus had first been described in 1699 from fossil fragments discovered in Wales. The first fossil vertebrae were published twice in 1708 as tangible mementos of the Universal Deluge. The first complete ichthyosaur fossil was found in 1811 by Mary Anning in Lyme Regis, along what is now called the Jurassic Coast. She subsequently discovered three separate species.

In 1905, the Saurian Expedition led by John C. Merriam of the University of California and financed by Annie Alexander, found 25 specimens in central Nevada, which during the Triassic was under a shallow ocean.” Wikipedia

Ichthyosaurs were initially thought to be crocodilian or lizard-like. Once their aquatic nature was realized, it was not immediately believed that they were reptiles. Some scientists thought that they were fishlike; others thought them to be an entirely new classification unto themselves. Some thought that they were Amphibians, a position still argued by some scientists at least through the early 20th century.

As briefly elaborated on by the geology department at Fullerton; for many years the ichthyosaurs were grouped with a wide range of animals such as lizards, crocodiles, amphibians, and even mammals. “

Ichthyosaur recreations. Click and drag to resize.

More detail is provided as to how these creatures came to be classified finally as reptiles in Water Reptiles OF THE PAST AND PRESENT BY SAMUEL WENDELL WILLISTON: “In 1821 the curator of mineralogy of the British Museum Koenig by name — after a more critical study of other remains, reached the conclusion that these animals were intermediate between the fishes and the reptiles, and gave to them the generic name Ichthyosaurus, meaning fish-reptile, a name by which the chief forms have ever since been known.

Within the next few years many specimens of ichthyosaurs were carefully and fully described by Conybeare, Cuvier, Owen, and others of England, France, and Germany, making very clear all the more important details of their skeletal structure.

Blaineville, in 1835, thought that the ichthyosaurs constituted a distinct class of vertebrates equivalent to all other reptiles, the birds, and the mammals, which he called Ichthyosauria, the first appearance in literature of the name by which the order is properly known.

Five years later, however, the famous English anatomist and paleontologist, the late Sir Richard Owen, united the ichthyosaurs with the plesiosaurs as a single order of reptiles, to which he gave the name Enalio- sauria, meaning sea-reptiles, a name which has long been current in textbooks and general works on natural history.”

Ever since Sir Richard Owen weighed in and declared that Ichthyosaurs were reptiles, the scientific world has not looked back. The “fact” that Ichthyosaurs were reptiles is now unquestioned by evolutionists and creationists alike and evolutionists, as we will see have tried to use this mistaken conclusion to support Darwinism and to attack creationism.

However, a 2005 article entitled “Evolution of Fish-Shaped Reptiles”,by Ryosuke Motani of UC Davis in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, gives us a better idea of the true state of ichthyosaur knowledge. Not a single thing “known” about these creatures is without controversy-among evolutionists, includinh whether or not they were really reptiles:

"Ichthyosaurs were a group of Mesozoic marine reptiles that evolved fish-shaped body outlines,... in Their Physical Environments and Constraints.” But while much is said about their environments and constraints, little is said to explain their evolution. It is not even certain they were reptiles: “The sister group of ichthyosaurs is unknown,” he says, resulting in taxonomists proposing conflicting ideas of where to put them within the vertebrates:

Dolphins. Click and drag to resize.

Many different hypotheses have been proposed as to where ichthyosaurs belong in the tree of vertebrates, and all major groups, including mammals, amphibians, and osteichthyes [bony fishes], have been proposed.” The majority view is that they are reptiles that diverged before the dinosaurs, though “It is unknown whether they are outside or inside the saurian clade.”

Reptile Ichthyosaurs? The Main Evidence for and Against

Pro Reptile

The primary reason for Ichthyosaur to be classified as a reptile then is the geological time scale. If the Ichthyosaur was discovered to be a dolphin-like mammal, they would have evolved up to 150 million years too early for evolutionary theory. The primary reason that ichthyosaurs were ultimately classified as reptiles is because the fossils of the creature were primarily discovered in strata from the “Triassic” epoch, a time considered to have begun approximately 248 million years ago. Ichthyosaurs are thought to be from the middle Triassic.

Cetaceans were supposed to have evolved in the Eocene, a period thought to have begun 55 million years ago. Dolphins, who look most like the ichthyosaur, are only 10 million years old, according to evolutionary theory.

The order Cetacea includes whales, dolphins and porpoises. ….Cetaceans are the mammals most fully adapted to aquatic life. Their body is fusiform (spindle-shaped). The forelimbs are modified into flippers. The tiny hindlimbs are vestigial; they do not attach to the backbone and are hidden within the body. The tail has horizontal flukes.


Cetaceans like whales and dolphins have horizontal tails or flukes. It appears from fossil evidence that ichthyosaurs had vertical tails like fish and sharks. The vertebral column of the ichthyosaur is kinked downward while the same column in cetaceans is kinked upwards. At this time, we’ll accept this conclusion as true even though we note that it would in most cases be difficult to ascertain the direction of dolphin flukes based only on the fossils which are usually compressed in situ.


 Surprisingly it was eventually discovered, ichthyosaurs had live births, like mammals and unlike most reptiles. They had lungs like dolphins and breathed air.

Quote: “Similar to modern cetaceans such as whales and dolphins, they were air-breathing and also were viviparous (some adult fossils have even been found containing fetuses). Although they were reptiles and descended from egg-laying ancestors, viviparity is not as unexpected as it first appears...”Wikipedia

After years of only being able to study fossilized ichthyosaur bones and impressions, a study of fossilized flesh reveals its close similarity to cetacean/dolphin/mammal flesh.

Quote: “The remarkably-preserved flesh of a 200 million year old ichthyosaur has revealed …..The mesh-like fabric of fibres deep in the skin of these dolphin-like reptiles, which grew up to four metres, bears close similarities with that of fast swimming dolphins, sharks and tuna today... "Because of the scarcity of fossilised ichthyosaur soft-tissue it was impractical to investigate the molecular nature of even a single fibre in the skin of ichthyosaurs - till now,"…..Fossilized Flesh Reveals… June 25,2008

The large numbers of bones at the wrist and at the appendages of the ichthyosaur are unlike those of any other reptile—and similar to whales.

Quote: “In the Ichthyosauria the limbs were as rigid and broader than those of Plesiosaurs, and the bones of the wrist are flexible and the digits were pressed together to form a mosaic composed of a large number of bones. Thus in the limbs of these reptiles there were bones of a kind found in no other reptile. The condition is much like that found in the limbs of whales.…. The Transformists Illusion, by Douglas Dewar

Lack of ancestors. If ichthyosaurs are aquatic reptiles, evolutionists have to admit that they don’t know where they come from. As reptiles, they would have had no ancestors.

Quote: “The ichthyosaurs, in many respects the most highly specialized of the marine reptiles, appeared in early Triassic times. Their advent into the geologic history of the reptiles was sudden and dramatic; there are no clues in pre-Triassic sediments as to the possible ancestors of the ichthyosaursÂ… The basic problem of ichthyosaur relationships is that no conclusive evidence can be found for linking these reptiles with any other reptilian order...…. Evolution of the Vertebrates, Edwin H. Colbert and Michael Morales

Ichthyosaurs had unfused spinal cord connections which are like those of whales and dolphins and unlike most reptiles.

Quote:”Ichthyosaurs were unusual among reptiles in not having their neural arches fused (permanently attached) to their respective vertebral centra. As a consequence the more robust; hence, more readily preserved centra are often found as fossils..." The Dragon Seekers, Christopher McGowan

Ichthyosaurs look morphologically like certain aquatic mammals down to the dorsal fin and tail. Photo: Right. Dolphins have two fins. Ichthyosaurs had four.

Quote: “Apart from the obvious similarities to fish, the ichthyosaurs also shared parallel developmental features with dolphins. This gave them a broadly similar appearance, possibly implied similar activity and presumably placed them broadly in a similar ecological niche.….Wikipedia

The conclusion to the foregoing is that ichthyosaurs looked a lot like the cetaceans, especially dolphins. The vast majority of the evidence suggests that they were mammalian rather than reptilian. They may have been cetaceans but for the vertical tail—which no living cetacean has. The evidence that they were reptiles comes primarily as a consequence of accepting the geological time scale which posits that the earth is billons of years old.

The Evolutionary Myth of Ichthyosaur “Convergent Evolution”

“Convergent evolution is the emergence of biological structures or species that exhibit similar function and appearance but that evolved through widely divergent evolutionary pathways. The similarities that are shared in the case of convergent evolution are not the result of evolution from a common ancestor sharing those similarities.

Instead, the similarities are typically explained as the result of common adaptive solutions to similar environmental pressures...… ISCID Encyclopedia of Science and Philosophy -

On the face of it, whether or not the ichthyosaur was a reptile or a mammal shouldn’t make much difference to creationists. Clearly, evolutionists believe it evolved over time, so they need it to be a reptile, several hundred million years old in order to fit the geological time scale—but creationists will say that whatever it is, it was created by God within the creation week.

Generally, creationists don’t argue that the ichthyosaur was not a aquatic reptile. The problem with this is they allow evolutionists to make lemonade out of lemons. The discovery of aquatic dolphin like mammals over 150 million years old by the evolutionary time scale would have wreaked havoc on both the geological time scale and on the supposed evolutionary tree. Nevertheless, creationists seem to have largely conceded the point.

What creationists do argue against is the idea of convergent evolution. A single designer accounts for the similarities in structure of various types of creatures much better than does random, undirected mutation shaped by environmental pressures.

Declaring the ichthyosaur a reptile although morphologically it looks like a cetacean allowed evolutionists to play this “convergent evolution” card. Stephen, Jay Gould, a world renowned evolutionist, now passed on, once wrote that the ichthyosaur was his favorite example of “convergent” or “parallel” evolution.

Ironically, as weÂ’ve shown, the ichthyosaur was most likely not a reptile and thus not an example of convergent evolution or indeed of macro evolution. I think that I can show that this may be true before the end of this article. I wonder what Gould's second favorite example was?

Exploding the Ichthyosaur Mythology

Fig. 5 Top is an ancient Roman wall mural depicting a "ferocious dolphin". Below it is a modern ichthyosaur recreation. Click and drag to resize.

As I began to make the case for the continued existence of a mammal like ichthyosaur into the time of man, it might be a good idea to review the photos of the 32 types of marine dolphins here. There are also five types of river dolphins, not pictured.

Part of the mythology evolutionists have created about ichthyosaurs is that almost miraculously, nature working through the evolutionary process created the same body shape as well as very similar species “activity” twice, first in a reptile and then 140 million years later, in a mammal.

If you’ve read the earlier articles in this section; Dinosaurs in Literature, Art and History, you know that weÂ’ve been able to go back and show that men living in earlier times created art showing them interacting with animals we now call dinosaurs and pterosaurs, proving rather conclusively that they did not die out before the time of man as evolutionary science would have us believe.

Here, I intend to show that man interacted with those mythological, reptilian ichthyosaurs who supposedly lived and died, well before man evolved and as the evolutionary scheme would have it, some 95 million years before the advent of the dolphin.

The dolphin and the ichthyosaur do look very much alike. However, there are some clear, specific morphological characteristics that would visually distinguish the dolphin from the ichthyosaur. First, ichthyosaurs have four flippers and dolphins have only two. The ichthyosaur has the four “limbs” with two rear flippers, but also has a dorsal fin and a vertical tail. Dolphins have horizontal tails.

Let’s comb through ancient art labeled as dolphins to see if any of those representations are in fact ichthyosaurs rather than dolphins. To the untrained eye, any ichthyosaur depictions will be labeled dolphin. If science is correct, we would not expect to find any of these representations clearly showing the morphological characteristics of living ichthyosaurs, because they would have been extinct for millions and millions of years before the evolution of man.

Reviewing Ancient art. The sculpture at the top of the page is from Eretria, an ancient Greek city, from around 310 B.C.. Note that first of all the sculpture clearly depicts FOUR flippers, the rear flippers being in the "ichthysaur" position. It appears also to have a vertical tail but that might be due to the point of view of the photo.There are many types of dolphins and many types of ichthyosaurs--no attempt was made to match them, here. Just a drawing from a similar position.

Fig. 6 2nd Century. House of the dolphins on Mykonos. Click and drag to resize.

In Fig 5, directly above is as the photographer described it, a scary looking dolphin, from an ancient Roman wall painting. Note that this depiction has four flippers, unlike dolphins, but exactly like ichthyosaurs. In many of the works of ancient art we've reviewed, the "dolphins" also have "beards" or hairlike growths on their heads--unlike any living dolphin species.

Fig 6. is 2nd century. From the House of the Dolphins, Mykonos Greece. Note that this depiction clearly shows dolphins with four fins-like the ichthyosaurs. They are also shown with fierce demeanors and vertical tails.

Fig. 7 520 B.C.. Etruscan, Tomb of the Lioness. Click and drag to resize.

In fig 7, we have another depiction of the dolphin with four fins, exactly as depicted in the modern day ichthyosaur reconstruction photo shown in comparison. Note the fierce aspect and vertical tail of the dolphin. This is from the Tomb of the Lioness, 520 B.C.. Etruscan.

Fig. 8. Two ancient four finned dolphins. Click and drag to resize.

In Figure 8, at Top, dolphin on a mosaic from the ancient harbor city of Ostia Antica. Note the four fins. Note the tail which could be vertical or horizontal. The middle dolphin depiction is from Iaosis, 125 B.C. to 325 B.C.. At bottom is modern recreation of a ichthyosaur.

Fig. 9. Ancient dolphin representations with "head gear" compared to a type of ichthyosaur skull. Click and drag to resize.

In Figure 9, we have some ancient dolphin depictions offered to show their similarity with a type of ichthyosaur with a head projection on his skull. If you were to go back and look at the 32 living dolphin representations you will note that none of them have this head "ornamentation", not even the unpictured river dolphins. Here also, the Roman mosaic from around 360 A.D., also appears to feature four fins as opposed to two. On the top right is a drawing of the Caldecott lake ichthyosaur discovered in 1982. This is the artists conception of how the head ornamentation of the fossil would appear.


There are many reasons to believe that the fossils designated "ichthyosaurs" are in fact not reptiles who lived 150 million years ago and became extinct 95 million years ago. Clearly they were seen and "described" in ancient art. They are undoubtly cetaceans or a close relative of that group. Based on the evidence science has discovered about these creatures, they were most likely mammals-like dolphins.

In antiquity, the vast majority of dolphins were depicted with only two fins. Still, a great many of them were four finned creatures which looked exactly like modern day recreations of the ichthyosaur.

There were many examples that were not shown here, including a Roman dolphin mosaic that seemed to include a living tribolite and a medieval bestiary that featured a four finned dolphin. According to that book, in antiquity there existed a nile dolphin with a serrated back that it used to kill aligators.

Fig. 10. Atavistic bottlenose dolphin? Click and drag to resize.

Were ichthyosaurs just an extinct type of dolphin? Dolphins were depicted with head ornamentation and even "beards" (hair=mammal) often unlike modern day types of dolphin.

It should be mentioned as well that in June 2006, a bottlenosed dolphin with four fins (Fig 10)was found by fisherman off the coast of Japan, blurring the line between ancient dolphins, modern dolphins and the ichthyosaur. Scientists called that dolphin atavistic--a throwback.

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