|The slab as originally found, near Chia Gara, Amadia.|
|Robert Appleby's original text figure of the |
skull region, submitted for his description.
Hughes queried whether he had received the correct images, as the samples from the ichthyosaur block clearly indicated a Cretaceous (probably pre-Aptian) age.
This just did
not fit with what Appleby was expecting at all.
He had been told by one of the geologists that the Cretaceous beds were
some distance away from the locality where the slab was found, and (in somewhat
derogatory terms) that the local people simply would not have expended the
effort required to transport the slab that far.
Hughes attempted a further sample from the block, but this time could
only obtain organic residue. Appleby
appears to have decided that the first sample had in some way become confused,
and with Hughes’ second sample proving inconclusive, abandoned further
palynological attempts at dating the slab.
Instead, he tried to pursue the age of the slab based on invertebrate
fossils in the area….in effect, he was becoming distracted into trying to
determine the age of the local geology, rather than the slab containing the
|Some of the images of the 1979 sampled
palynomorphs that led Norman Hughes
to identify their source as undoubtedly
Appleby eventually had his paper accepted for Palaeontology in the late eighties – provided he could tick one final box: resolve the age of the specimen. Busy working on his massive monograph of the ichthyosaurs, he decided to leave the
Iraq specimen (which he had planned
to call Iraqisaurus kurdistanensis)
until his monograph was completed.
Sadly, he died only five days after he had written the last pages, some
years later, so never returned to work on the date for the Iraq ichthyosaur.
|The slab NHMUK PV R6682 in July 2007, prior to
matrix being |
resampled for pollen/spores/dinoflagellates. White boots for scale.
There is a certain unity to the assessment of the specimen by Appleby, and Fischer’s work: both recognised the specimen as unusually ‘archaic’ in its morphology. Fischer, however, was neither constrained by poor advice from local ‘experts’ on the limitations of the age, nor by a narrow view of the diversity of taxa that made it through the Jurassic-Cretaceous extinction. Not all ichthyosaur workers might find it so easy to move on with this very necessary paradigm shift, being ‘stuck in the past’ very much as Malawania’s skeletal anatomy was.
At left, Malawania, the Jurassic-style Cretaceous ichthyosaur from Iraq;
at right, fellow Jurassic extinction survivor Acamptonectes.
Illustrations by Robert Nicholls (www.paleocreations.com);
colouring by C. M. Kosemen (www.cmkosemen.com).