This is – as far as we know now

Researchers have unearthed the fossilized remains of a still unknown marine reptile, which measured up to 17 meters in length from caudal fin to muzzle!

While dinosaurs ruled the earth, so-called ichthyosaurs ruled the oceans. Although these marine reptiles were not dinosaurs, they reached similar gigantic sizes and also came in many different shapes and sizes. Now, researchers have unearthed the fossilized remains of a previously unknown and bizarre ichthyosaur species. An animal that was really huge.

The now extinct ichthyosaurs looked like today’s dolphins. Not only in appearance, for example, they also breathed air and were viviparous. Besides, they were huge. “Since the first discovery of skeletons in southern England and Germany over 250 years ago, these ‘salt fish’ have been among the first large reptile fossils known to science,” said the researcher Martin Sander.

And this story continues now. In the Augusta Mountains, a small mountain range in the US state of Nevada, researchers have discovered the fossil remains of a new species of ichthyosaur. In the rock, the team found a well-preserved skull, up to two meters long. In addition to this oddly large skull, the researchers also found part of the front spine, shoulder, and fin.

Next to the skull of Cymbospondylus youngorum is researcher Viji Shook. Image: Martin Sander, courtesy of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM)

The beast was truly gigantic, describe researchers in their studies. Because from the caudal fin to the muzzle, this marine reptile must have been 17 meters long. The researchers have Cymbospondylus youngorum Appointed.

The biggest surprise, however, came after researchers dated the animal. After analysis, it appears Cymbospondylus youngorum namely from the Middle Triassic (247.2 to 237 million years ago). And it is interesting. Because it means that this animal is the biggest discovered to date. In reality, Cymbospondylus youngorum is even – to our knowledge – the first giant to inhabit the earth.

Grows fast
What’s fascinating is how quickly Cymbospondylus youngorum grew up. This giant swam in the oceans about 246 million years ago, about three million years after the first ichthyosaurs appeared. It means that Cymbospondylus youngorum – in an evolutionary way – had grown to its gigantic size in an incredibly short period of time.

What did he have on his menu? The elongated snout and conical teeth of Cymbospondylus youngorum suggest that this giant was feeding on squid and fish. But due to its large appearance, it can also sometimes like a smaller and younger marine reptile.

The researchers say that Cymbospondylus youngorum probably had a lot in common with whales. In this way, they have not only grown to huge sizes, but also look alike in terms of construction. Moreover, they both appeared after a mass extinction. One significant difference, however, is that the ichthyosaur was huge quite early in its evolutionary history, while the whales took much longer to reach their massive size.

How did ichthyosaurs get so big? This is likely due to the increase in ammonites and eel-like vertebrates that filled the ecological void after the Late Permian mass extinction. Overall, the results show that Cymbospondylus youngorum survived mass extinction very well. “An interesting aspect is that Cymbospondylus youngorum proof of the resilience of life in the oceans after the worst mass extinction in Earth history, ”concludes Jorge Velez-Juarbe.

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