Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Record-Breaking 200 Million-Year-Old Sea Monster Discovered in the UK

Scientists have discovered the remains of a massive marine reptile, potentially the largest ever found, dating back 200 million years. The creature, an ichthyosaur, was unearthed in Somerset, UK, and represents a new species and genus, which has been named Ichthyotitan severnensis or “giant lizard fish of the Severn.”

Ichthyosaurs were dominant sea predators during the Mesozoic Era, spanning from 251.9 million to 66 million years ago. The newly identified species lived at the end of the Triassic Period. Unlike dinosaurs, ichthyosaurs evolved from a different lineage of reptiles, showing a parallel evolutionary path to whales, including breathing air and bearing live young.

The discovery was made at Blue Anchor, Somerset, where the first fragment of the fossil was found atop a beach rock, likely placed there by a passerby. This find led to further exploration between 2020 and 2022, uncovering a total of 12 fragments from the surangular bone in the lower jaw. Researchers estimate the creature was about 82 feet long based on the 6.5-foot-long bone fragment.

This new genus and species add to the over 100 known species of ichthyosaurs. The remains suggest that I. severnensis lived during a time of significant volcanic activity, potentially linked to a mass extinction event at the end of the Triassic.

The site’s proximity to another significant ichthyosaur discovery in Lilstock, where a similar but slightly smaller specimen was unearthed, underscores the area’s paleontological significance. Previously, the largest marine reptile was believed to be Shonisaurus sikanniensis, found in British Columbia, measuring up to 69 feet.

The discovery of Ichthyotitan severnensis provides critical insights into the size range and evolutionary adaptations of ichthyosaurs, hinting at the diverse ecological dynamics of prehistoric marine environments.

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