May 5, 2024 at 3:33 pm

The World’s Largest Marine Reptile Lived Over 200 Million Years Ago And Was 82 Feet Long

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Shutterstock

There are a lot of giant animals who traverse the world’s oceans.

Great white sharks, blue whales, giant squid…and if you think they’re intimidating, can you wrap your mind around a reptile that was the same size?

Meet the new species of ichthyosaur that researchers estimate was around 82 feet long – about as large as a modern blue whale.

It’s called Ichthyotitan severnensis, which means “giant fish lizard of the Severn.” A father and daughter team, Justin and Ruby Reynolds, discovered a jawbone while hunting fossils along Blue Anchor Bay in Somerset.

Source: Dr. Dean Lomax

Ruby, aged 11, found the first piece and then the two worked together to collect more pieces.

From there they contacted ichthyosaur expert Dr. Dean Lomax with their find.

It complimented a 2016 discovery of a giant jaw bone in Lilstock, and Lomax said that was enough to confirm the existence of a new prehistoric sea monster.

“I was amazed by the find. In 2018, my team (including Paul de la Salle) studied and described Paul’s giant jawbone and we had hoped that one day another would come to light. This new specimen is more complete, better preserved, and shows that we now have two of these giant bones (called a surangular) that have a unique shape and structure. I became very excited, to say the least.”

Source: PLOS ONE

The hunters returned to the site and found additional fossils. In the end, they had enough to piece together two examples of the same jaw bone and a more complete picture of how large the animal would have been.

The creature lived during the Rhaetian, which was at the end of the Triassic Period around 202 million years ago. They would have been among the last of their kind before the global mass extinction event that took place in the late Triassic.

Source: PLOS ONE

Lomax believes there is great academic potential in better understanding how a vertebrate like the ichthyosaurs were able to grow to such a size.

“This research has been ongoing for almost eight years. It is quite remarkable to think that gigantic, blue whale-sized ichthyosaurs were swimming in the oceans around what was the UK during the Triassic Period. These jawbones provide tantalising evidence that perhaps one day a complete skull or skeleton of one of these giants might be found. You never know.”

And isn’t that the cool thing about science?

I think so.

Thought that was fascinating? Here’s another story you might like: Why You’ll Never See A Great White Shark In An Aquarium