A Fossil Collector's Giant Icthyosaur Jawbone Discovery Just Solved an Ancient Mystery

Eloise Marshall
April 10, 2018

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.

The creature would have been one of the largest ever known, behind only blue whales and dinosaurs, say scientists.

Sea reptiles the size of whales swam off the English coast while dinosaurs walked the land, according to a new fossil discovery.

An worldwide team of paleontologists have discovered the jawbone of ancient marine reptiles, whose age reaches 205 million years. But, the latest study revealed that the Ichthyosaur species could be the largest animal ever lived on Earth.

On discovering the bone, he said: "Initially, the bone just looked like a piece of rock, but after recognising the groove and bone structure, I thought it might be part of a jaw from the ichthyosaur and immediately contacted ichthyosaur experts". Because the remains are so incomplete, it is unclear whether it represents a new ichthyosaur genus or is a member of a previously identified genus, said paleontologist Judy Massare of the State University of New York College at Brockport.

After comparing them to another set of bones in Canada scientists believe they came from an ichthyosaur that was close to 26 meters long, nearly the size of a blue whale.

Lomax and Massare identified the specimen as an incomplete bone (called a surangular) from the lower jaw of a giant ichthyosaur. Have compared it with fragments of the jaw of other ichthyosaurs, including Shonisaurus sikanniensis, which belongs to the family chastisable and reaches 21 meters in length.

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"Other comparisons suggest the Lilstock ichthyosaur was at least 65ft-82ft". Of course, such estimates are not entirely realistic because of differences between species.

The comparative analysis suggested the new specimens was quite similar to Shonisaurus sikanniensis, only larger - 25 percent larger, to be exact.

The experts compared it to another specimen and used a scaling technique to estimate the size, Newsweek reported.

In 1850, a large bone was found at Aust Cliff below the Severn Bridge in Gloucestershire.

"Since the specimen is represented only by a large piece of jaw, it is hard to provide an estimate of the size of the animal", said Dean Lomax, an expert on ichthyosaurs at the University of Manchester. "Some ichthyosaurs were as large or larger than contemporaneous Late Triassic dinosaurs", said the research paper. "If it is, by comparison with the Lilstock specimen, it might represent a much larger animal".

Paleontologist Dean Lomax, of the University of Manchester, said: "This bone belonged to a giant. To verify these findings, we need a complete giant Triassic ichthyosaur from the United Kingdom - a lot easier said than done", said Lomax.

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