The Largest Prehistoric Aquatic Reptile, An Ichthyosaur Specimen, Has Been Discovered

Ichthyosaur Jawbone From 200 Million-Year-Old Giant Dinosaur Found

It's very hard to accurately estimate the animal's size because we only have a large piece of its jaw.

When fossil collector Paul De la Salle discovered pieces of a giant bone on Lilstock beach in Somerset in May 2016, he didn't realise he had stumbled on a clue to a near 170-year-old mystery. In fact, it might have belonged to the largest creature on Earth - larger than a blue whale, which now holds such a title. They compared it with several ichthyosaurs and visited the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Alberta, Canada, to examine the largest known specimen, the shastasaurid Shonisaurus sikanniensis, which is more than 68 feet long.

"Of course, such estimates are not entirely realistic because of differences between species".

Though the earliest ichthyosaurs were more slithery sorts, as they evolved they developed a basic built-for-speed body shape while at the same time diversifying into different species that specialized in various niches (although determining exactly how many species of ichthyosaur there were remains a point of contention).

A jawbone fossil found on a rocky English beach belongs to one of the biggest marine animals on record, a type of seagoing reptile called an ichthyosaur that scientists estimated at up to 26 metres (85 feet) long - approaching the size of a blue whale.

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"I realized this was a giant ichthyosaur and the biggest thing ever found in the U.K". "Nonetheless, simple scaling is commonly used to estimate size, especially when comparative material is scarce".

Now the early marine reptiles may be filling the void, as a new research says that the discovery of a large fossilized jawbone belonging to an unidentified species of ichthyosaur that may have calculated up to 26 m (85 ft) long.

The fossil remains of ichthyosaurs suggest that they lived throughout the Mesozoic era, 251 million years ago and up to 65 million years ago.

Given that researchers have only a few pieces of the lower jaw, they can not definitively say whether the new ichthyosaur is also Shonisaurus, or just a similar but separate species.

De la Salle then contacted me, Judy Massare from the State University of NY and professional geologist Ramues Gallois. On this context, nothing found on the Patagotitan, the biggest animal (non-aquatic) to ever be on the earth at 37 m (122 ft) long and weighing around 70 tons.

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The 2016 jawbone discovery also led scientists to re-examine 208-million-year-old bones uncovered in 1850 in Aust Cliff, Gloucestershire. They have been identified as the limb bones of several dinosaurs (stegosaurs and sauropods), indeterminate dinosaurs and other reptiles.

This way, they could tell the ancient jaw bone belonged to an ichthyosaur.

Given the changing opinions about these bones, which have generally been considered to come from dinosaurs, I suspect that our study will generate even more interest in these fossils.

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

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