US News Prehistoric Bone Found from One of Largest Animals Ever

21:16  10 april  2018
21:16  10 april  2018 Source:   Newsweek

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A reconstruction of the giant ichthyosaur. © NOBUMICHI TAMURA A reconstruction of the giant ichthyosaur. A 205 million-year-old prehistoric reptile bone found on a beach in England belongs to "one of the largest animals" that ever lived, according to an international team of researchers.

The jaw bone comes from a giant ichthyosaur that experts estimate may have measured up to a whopping 26 meters (85 feet) long—approaching the size of some blue whales, the largest animal ever known to exist.

Ichthyosaurs are large marine reptiles which roamed the seas during the age of the dinosaurs.

The fossil was found in May 2016 on the coast of Lilstock, Somerset, in the southwest of the country by collector Paul de la Salle, who also co-authored a new study describing the fossil which has been published in the journal PLOS One.

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The bone belongs to a giant ichthyosaur, a type of prehistoric aquatic reptile, and experts estimate the length of this specimen’s body would have been up to 26 metres. If it is, by comparison with the Lilstock specimen, it might represent a much larger animal .

The largest prehistoric organisms include both vertebrate and invertebrate species. Many are described below, along with their typical range of size (for the general dates of extinction, see the link to each).

"Initially, the bone just looked like a piece of rock but, after recognising a groove and bone structure, I thought it might be part of a jaw from an ichthyosaur and immediately contacted ichthyosaur experts Dean Lomax (University of Manchester) and Judy Massare (State University of New York College at Brockport) who expressed interest in studying the specimen,” de la Salle said in a statement.

Massare and Lomax analyzed the bone, finding that it was incomplete and came from the lower jaw of a large ichthyosaur specimen. They also compared it to the previous largest known ichthyosaur specimen which is being kept at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Alberta, Canada.

"We compared our jaw bone to that of Shonisaurus sikanniensis, the largest ichthyosaur previously known, with an estimated length of up to 21 m," Massare told Newsweek. "Our bone was about 25% deeper. The estimate assumes that the two animals had a similar shape for this bone, as neither specimen preserves the entire bone."

Prehistoric Bone Found from One of Largest Animals Ever

  Prehistoric Bone Found from One of Largest Animals Ever Ichthyosaurs are large marine reptiles which roamed the seas during the age of the dinosaurs. The fossil was found in May 2016 on the coast of Lilstock, Somerset, in the southwest of the country by collector Paul de la Salle, who also co-authored a new study describing the fossil which has been published in the journal PLOS One.

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Shonisaurus life and skeletal reconstruction. © NOBUMICHI TAMURA & SCOTT HARTMAN Shonisaurus life and skeletal reconstruction. Because the new specimen is only represented a by a large piece of jaw, it is difficult to provide a size estimate, according to Lomax. However, by using a simple scaling factor the researchers estimated that the Lilstock specimen is around 25% larger.

“Other comparisons suggest the Lilstock ichthyosaur was at least 20-25 m (67-82 ft). Of course, such estimates are not entirely realistic because of differences between species,” Lomax added in the statement. “Nonetheless, simple scaling is commonly used to estimate size, especially when comparative material is scarce.”

The jawbone of the giant ichthyosaur. © DEAN LOMAX, THE UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER The jawbone of the giant ichthyosaur. In their paper, the researchers also described mysterious bone fragments found in 1850 in the nearby village of Aust, Gloucestershire, which could belong to an even larger ichthyosaur.

"We suggest in the paper that bone fragments from Aust are from the jaw of an ichthyosaur even larger than the one we described," Massare said. "However, the Aust specimens are so fragmentary that a length estimate is not possible."

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These ancient, swimming reptiles may have been the biggest animals of all time .
England's ichthyosaurs have changed the course of paleontology again.De la Salle is an amateur fossil hunter, so he knew to call experts Dean Lomax and Judy Massare to confirm the hunch. And it turned out to be quite the find: The three-foot-long piece of jawbone de la Salle eventually assembled from the Lilstock beach may have belonged to a creature as much as 85 feet long.

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