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The osteology of Leedsichthys (Pachycormiformes): growth, resorption and fragmentation of a problematic Jurassic giant
SVPCA Conference
Platform presentation (20 minutes)
*Jeff J Liston
Paradoxically, the osteology of what is reputed to be the largest bony fish ever, Leedsichthys problematicus, remains virtually unknown (Liston, 2004), nearly 120 years after it was first described by Arthur Smith Woodward (Smith Woodward, 1889). The main reason for the material being difficult to identify is that the animal grew with only limited ossification throughout most of its skeleton. As a result of this, a comparatively limited number of bones appear to be preserved, and those that have are invariably badly crushed and fragmentary. All this makes handling - never mind identification - difficult. Less than ten years after his first tentative description of a variety of bony remains, Arthur Smith Woodward retracted all his osteological identifications save for gill rakers and lepidotrichia (Leeds & Smith Woodward, 1897). Although circumstantial evidence exists to suggest that he worked further on remains found the following year by the original discoverer of the fish, Alfred Nicholson Leeds (Liston & Noč, 2004), no accounts resulting from this work were ever published.
Work was carried out in the Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow, Scotland (home of the most complete specimen of Leedsichthys ever excavated, known as ‘Big Meg’), to review the hypodigm of material there, and conduct repairs in an attempt to make the surviving elements as complete as possible for identification. Estimates of size and calculations of age were made, in order to establish possible growth rates.
London 2020