Paleontologists are learning more about gigantic ocean-dwelling creatures that lived over 200 million years ago thanks to a new look at fossils discovered decades ago.
The fossil record for Late Triassic enormous ichthyosaurs, sometimes known as “fish lizards,” is sparse, which has been a source of consternation for experts. Martin Sander, a paleontologist at the University of Bonn, stated it “remains a tremendous enigma.” Sander is the primary author of research that looked at rib fragments, vertebrae, and a massive tooth discovered between 1976 and 1990 in the Swiss Alps. These practically unknown fossils are explained in an article published this week in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
Ichthyosaurs were reptiles that looked like whales and dolphins. They might have weighed up to 80 tons, according to researchers. The reexamined fossils represented three creatures. According to a vertebra, one of them was around 66 feet (20 meters) long.
The tooth, according to Sander, is “very intriguing” and “large by ichthyosaur standards.” According to the article, the discovery proves that at least some large ichthyosaurs possessed teeth.
While the tooth is enormous, this does not necessarily imply that its possessor was also. The University of Bonn explained, “This is because research thinks that extreme gigantism and a predatory lifestyle (which requires fangs) are incompatible.” So it’s possible that the aquatic reptile was simply an ichthyosaur with huge teeth, a little bigger than a modern-day sperm whale.
According to research co-author Heinz Furrer of the University of Zurich, the unusual fossils were discovered by students at the height of 9,200 feet (2,800 meters) in an area of the Alps famed for glaciers. It demonstrates how dramatically a place’s landscape may change over millions of years. The site might be a hotspot for more fossils in the future. “Perhaps there are more relics of the gigantic marine animals lying beneath the glaciers,” Sander speculated.