The largest marine reptile ever could match blue whales in size

Bones from the head of a reptile suggest a body that was well over 20 meters long.

Apr 18, 2024 - 19:50
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The largest marine reptile ever could match blue whales in size
The largest marine reptile ever could match blue whales in size

Enlarge (credit: Sergey Krasovskiy)

Blue whales have been considered the largest creatures to ever live on Earth. With a maximum length of nearly 30 meters and weighing nearly 200 tons, they are the all-time undisputed heavyweight champions of the animal kingdom.

Now, digging on a beach in Somerset, UK, a team of British paleontologists found the remains of an ichthyosaur, a marine reptile that could give the whales some competition. “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,” said Dr Dean Lomax, a paleontologist at the University of Manchester who led the study.

Giant jawbones

Ichthyosaurs were found in the seas through much of the Mesozoic era, appearing as early as 250 million years ago. They had four limbs that looked like paddles, vertical tail fins that extended downward in most species, and generally looked like large, reptilian dolphins with elongated narrow jaws lined up with teeth. And some of them were really huge. The largest ichthyosaur skeleton so far was found in British Columbia, Canada, measured 21 meters, and belonged to a particularly massive ichthyosaur called Shonisaurus sikanniensis. But it seems they could get even larger than that.

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