Evolution of Fish-Shaped Reptiles (reptilia: Ichthyopterygia) in Their Physical Environments and Constraints
Ichthyosaurs were a group of Mesozoic marine reptiles that evolved fish-shaped body outlines. They are unique in several anatomical characters, including the possession of enormous eyeballs sometimes exceeding 25 cm and an enlarged manus with sometimes up to 20 bones in a single digit, or 10 digits per manus. They are also unique in that their biology has been studied from the perspective of physical constraints, which allowed estimation of such characteristics as optimal cruising speed, visual sensitivity, and even possible basal metabolic rate ranges. These functional inferences, although based on physical principles, obviously contain errors arising from the limitations of fossilized data, but are necessarily stronger than the commonly made inferences based on superficial correlations among quantities without mechanical or optical explanations for why such correlations exist.