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Illustration of an Ichthyotitan severnensis carcass washed up on a seashore

Sergey Krasovskiy

The 200-million-year-old fossilised stays of an historical ichthyosaur, unearthed on a seashore in south-west England, could also be a part of the biggest marine reptile ever discovered.

In 2020, newbie fossil hunters stumbled throughout a large chunk of bone at Blue Anchor seashore in Somerset. Upon additional inspection, Dean Lomax on the College of Manchester, UK, and his colleagues shortly realised that it was a jawbone fragment of a large ichthyosaur – a type of reptile that roamed the oceans between 250 and 90 million years in the past.

Subsequent digs on the seashore have uncovered 11 extra fragments, permitting the crew to partially piece collectively a bone that sits at the back of the jaw referred to as a surangular.

This newest discovery comes after a 2018 report that described a similar ichthyosaur jawbone discovered on a unique Somerset seashore. On the time, the crew didn’t have sufficient proof to find out its species.

“It was very clear that this was one other certainly one of these big jawbones,” says Lomax. “So I used to be very, very excited.”

After evaluating the partial surangular with the whole ones of different ichthyosaurs, the crew estimates that the entire bone was at the least 2 metres lengthy – placing the animal’s physique size at round 20 to 25 metres.

“We’re coping with one thing really huge,” says Lomax. “It will actually characterize the biggest marine reptile formally described.”

The character of the surangular, which matches the one reported in 2018, means each fossils will need to have belonged to a beforehand undescribed species of ichthyosaur, says Lomax. The crew have named it Ichthyotitan severnensis, which means the enormous fish lizard of the river Severn.

The stays date to round 202 million years in the past, simply earlier than a serious international extinction occasion that worn out many species, together with many big ichthyosaurs.

“They’re fairly actually the final giants,” says Lomax. “No ichthyosaurs obtained wherever close to this measurement once more.”


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