A 200 million year old resident of Larne has returned home to the Co Antrim port town as part of a special display.
It's an extinct, dolphin-shaped marine reptile which in life was about two metres long
BY FIONA McILWAINE BIGGINS
The fossil of an ichthyosaur or "fish lizard" which was discovered beside Larne Promenade in 1999 is on show in the town's Tourist Information Centre.
It is housed in a special display case and was recently delivered to the centre by Dr Mike Simms, Curator of Palaeontology at the Ulster Museum, from where it is on loan.
A spokesman for Larne Borough Council explained: "The fossil is in two parts and although incomplete, it is reputed to be one of the best examples found in Ireland.
"This ichthyosaur is from the late Triassic Period - some 200 million years ago.
"It's an extinct, dolphin-shaped marine reptile which in life was about two metres long, had large fins and a strong tail; enabling it to swim and manoeuvre at speed in its quest for food.
"Its main diet was fish and belemnites - an extinct squid-like creature whose fossils are commonly found along our coastline.
"The ichthyosaur's large eyes helped it to see at depths where there wasn't much light."
And she went on to highlight a fascinating fact: "While reptiles normally lay eggs in sand or soil, this reptile lived in the sea and could not get onto land, so it's young were born alive in the water."
In conclusion she said: "The council is very pleased to have the fossil on loan from the Ulster Museum.
"Geologists from all over the world come to study the rocks along the Antrim coast, so it is important for us to understand and appreciate the value of what we have."
The ichthyosaur will be on view at Larne Tourist Information Centre for the next two years.
For opening hours of the centre visit www.larne.gov.uk