It is unlikely that the body of a mother ichthyosaur exploded, say researchers who offer another explanation for the scattered remains of embryos found around her in rock that was once deep underwater.
Rather, the scattering of the embryos was probably caused by minor sea currents after the expectant mother died and her body decayed some 182 million years ago, the researchers propose.
If this scenario sounds confusing, it is important to know that ichthyosaurs, extinct marine reptiles that lived at the same time as the dinosaurs, did not lay eggs but rather carried their young in their bodies until they gave birth. Ichthyosaurs resembled fish but, unlike most fish, breathed air through lungs.
The nearly intact skeleton of the female ichthyosaur in question was found in Holzmaden, Germany. But the remains of most of the approximately 10 embryos were scattered far outside her body it. Other fossilized ichthyosaur remains have been found in similarly strange arrangements, with skeletons usually complete but jumbled to some degree.