May 30, 2024


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A jawbone in England appears to belong to the largest marine reptile ever known

A jawbone in England appears to belong to the largest marine reptile ever known

A jawbone found in Somerset, England, may belong to the largest marine reptile known to date, the massive ichthyosaur that lived about 200 million years ago. The new type is dubbed Ichthyotitan severensis It may have been more than 80 feet long, according to the team's estimates. The discovery means that ichthyosaurs could have grown to be roughly the size of blue whales, which long reigned as the undisputed largest animals known to science.

Describe the team I. severnensis in a study published Today in PLoS One. Although the animal's length is an educated guess based on the size of the jawbone, if the estimates are correct, the newly described species could grow about 10 feet taller than the animal is tall. S. cycanensisthe second largest ichthyosaur.

Ichthyosaurs were ancient sea-dwelling reptiles that disappeared about 90 million years ago. Even though they shared the planet with dinosaurs –Except for the last 30 million-odd years From the latter period – ichthyosaurs belong to a different branch in the tree of life. The largest ichthyosaurs were the shastasaurs, a group that ranged in size from about 20 feet (6 m) to more than 60 feet (20 m).I. severnensis Being the latest and most superior example.

Ichthyosaur remains are scattered throughout Europe. In 2022, a different team of paleontologists identified Three ichthyosaur fossils in the Swiss Alpsabout 9,000 feet above sea level, and recent studies have revealed the presence An ichthyosaur fossil with a fossilized fetus inside And even on An ichthyosaur with its last meal still halfway up its esophagus. But only shastasaurids reached enormous size, not as large as blue whales, the largest animals ever known, but larger than sperm whales and humpback whales.

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There was “an interesting diversification of very large ichthyosaurs at the end of the Triassic, before the mass extinction 201 million years ago,” found Heinz Furer, a paleontologist at the University of Zurich and co-author of the paper on Alpine ichthyosaurs. “Combined with a roughly equivalent time discovery in British Columbia, it was the largest marine reptile to ever live on Earth,” he told Gizmodo in 2022.

Last week, paleontologists from the University of Bonn published A study in PeerJ confirms that many large pieces of bone found across Europe over the past 150 years belong to giant ichthyosaurs, not dinosaurs. In fact, evidence of shastasaurids appears mainly in their fossilized teeth and vertebrae.

“Fossils were and continue to be so puzzling that I like to liken them to ghosts,” Martin Sander, lead author of the 2022 Ichthyosaur paper and co-author of last week’s work, said in an email to Gizmodo. “Control of the world's oceans for 25 million years before the end of the Triassic (202 [million years ago]) But we hardly know what it looks like!

In 2018, Team Description of a 205 million year old jawbone From the same stretch of Somerset in England. They compared the jawbone to the bone itself Schonisaurus sikanensisIt is the largest known ichthyosaur, measuring about 70 feet in length. The 2018 jawbone was slightly larger, suggesting that the animal it belonged to was larger S. cycanensis.

Paleoart of two I. Severnensis swimming.

“We were hoping another day would come [jawbone] “It will be revealed,” Dean Lomax, a paleontologist at the University of Manchester and lead author of the paper, said in a statement issued by PLOS. “This new specimen is more complete, better preserved, and shows that we now have two of these giant bones (called ring bones) that have a unique shape and structure.”

Among the fun bonuses, the jawbone — which is specifically rectangular in shape — also contains several bivalve and trace fossils, evidence that other ancient creatures may have mined for food.

The largest animal ever known is the blue whale, which can reach about 100 feet (30.5 meters) in length and weigh about 200 tons. The blue whale still swims in the Earth's oceans today, although it is threatened with extinction. Of course, the whale is also a mammal. althoug I. severnensis The size estimate puts the blue whale's length to shame, so it fills the gap. It is also much larger than the largest extant marine reptile, the saltwater crocodile, which can grow to… About 17 feet long– Still smaller than the smallest shastasaurids.

Lomax and others decided to give the ghost a name, IchthyotetanSander said. “I think that's a good idea even though she's still a ghost, but it's easier to talk about a ghost with a name than a ghost with no name.”

more: Fossils of giant dolphin-like marine reptiles found in the Swiss Alps