Triassic ichthyosaur was one of the largest animals in history


The jawbone fossil of the giant sea monster was found in May 2016 on the coast of Lilstock, Somerset, in the southwest of England, by Paul de la Salle, a fossil collector, and researcher. A bone can not help researchers find out how big the ancient animal was, so they found another solution.

"Initially, the bone just looked like a piece of rock but, after recognizing a groove and bone structure, I thought it might be part of a jaw from an ichthyosaur", de la Salle said in a news release.

Scientists said on Monday this ichthyosaur, which appears to be the largest marine reptile ever discovered, lived 205 million years ago at the end of the Triassic Period, dominating the oceans just as dinosaurs were becoming the undisputed masters on land.

Reference: A giant Late Triassic ichthyosaur from the United Kingdom and a reinterpretation of the Aust Cliff "dinosaurian" bones.

For help in identifying the remains, De la Salle recruited ichthyosaur experts Dean Lomax, from Manchester, and Judy Massare, from SUNY College at Brockport in NY, as well as geologist Ramues Gallois.

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Scientists have compared these bones to similar ones that once belonged to what was previously considered the largest ichthyosaur, the 21-meter Shastasaurus Shonisaurus sikanniensis.

Shonisaurus life and skeletal reconstruction.

However, with the discovery of the Lilstock specimen, this new study refutes previous identifications and also the most recent assertion that the Aust bones represent an early experiment of dinosaur-like gigantism in terrestrial reptiles.

Until now, the largest known ichthyosaurs were between 20ft and 69ft, but the new species most probably measured more than 80ft, nearly the size of a blue whale, the largest animal ever to live. The blue whale is the largest animal ever known to exist.

The biggest were larger than other massive marine reptiles of the dinosaur age and only today's filter-feeding baleen whales are bigger. The newly discovered bone was 25 per cent larger. Four other similarly incomplete bones were also discovered and described, two of which are now missing and presumed destroyed.

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Based on their comparison, the Lilstock ichthyosaur is most likely between 20 to 25 meters or 67 to 82 feet.

The discovery, reported in the journal, PLOS One, also clears up another long-standing mystery.

Massare of SUNY at Brockport explained the process through which they determined the size of the animal from the bone fragments they found.

"This specimen has prompted the reinterpretation of several large, roughly cylindrical bones from the latest Triassic (Rhaetian Stage) Westbury Mudstone Formation from Aust Cliff, Gloucestershire, UK". I highly recommend you view the TED Talk by Jack Horner called "Where are the baby dinosaurs?" to learn more about this phenomenon.

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