Ichthyosaurs are very important in the science of palaeontology. The chances of animal remains becoming fossilized are very slim. In the past the occasional bones that people found were usually interpreted as being the remains of legendary giants or dragons, however in 1814 Mary Anning of Lyme Regis in Dorset changed all this. Her discovery of a near complete Ichthyosaur which could not only be identified as a large marine animal, but was also not currently living as a species, changed the thinking of the scientific world forever.
The science of palaeontology emerged through the pioneering work of Mary Anning, later followed up by the researches of Gideon and Mary Ann Mantell. From their pioneering work the idea of extinction was introduced, which was later to form the basis for many ideas in Charles Darwin 's book "On the Origin of Species".
The name Ichthyosaur means 'fish lizard' and they have an important place in the evolution of prehistoric life. Life first evolved in the water, and later conquered the land. The Ichthyosaur is special because it appears to have evolved from an, as yet, unidentified family of land reptiles, that returned to the water, the first of many species to make this radical move. They also gave birth to live young, a remarkable adaptation for a reptile, and probably led a very similar life style to that of modern dolphins an whales. They were air breathing, and very abundant during the Jurassic Period.