Close-up of an Ophthalmosaurus swimming underwater


Ophthalmosaurus were a group of marine reptiles belonging to the famous Ichthyosaurs. A powerful tail propelled the long, barrel-shaped yet streamlined body through the water with broad front paddles providing steering. The largest eyes in the animal kingdom, after which they are named, allowed Ophthalmosaurus to see in the dim and murky depths. A ring of bone protected these large eyes from the effects of pressure during deep dives. The long, sparsely toothed jaws were perfect for catching fish and the squid-like animals of the time. Major fossil finds have been from Europe, North America and Argentina.

Scientific name: Ophthalmosaurus

Rank: Genus

Common names:

eye lizard

Watch video clips from past programmes (3 clips)

In order to see this content you need to have an up-to-date version of Flash installed and Javascript turned on.


Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

When they lived

Discover the other animals and plants that lived during the following geological time periods.

Jurassic period Jurassic period
The Jurassic began after the mass extinction event that ended the Triassic. Life, however, was quick to recover from this blow and the Jurassic eventually became host to the most diverse range of organisms that Earth had yet seen.


  1. Life
  2. Animals
  3. Vertebrates
  4. Reptiles
  5. Ichthyopterygia
  6. Ichthyosaurs
  7. Ophthalmosauridae
  8. Ophthalmosaurus