Tech UPTechnologyThis was the first giant creature that inhabited the...

This was the first giant creature that inhabited the Earth

An international team of scientists has discovered the remains of what appears to be the first giant creature to inhabit the Earth in the mountains of Nevada (USA). It is an ichthyosaur, a swimming reptile that grew to about 18 meters in length (its skull was as big as a piano). The experts found a well-preserved 2-meter-long skull found along with parts of the spine, shoulder and front flipper of one of these animals that would have lived between 247 and 237 million years ago.

 

An epic ichthyosaur

The creature, dubbed ‘ Cymbospondylus youngorum ‘, is the first giant creature on Earth, the oldest we have found. The fossil was extracted from a layer of Middle Triassic-age rocks known as the Fossil Hill Member that outcrops in the remote Augusta Mountains.

Based on the age of the newly identified species, it appears that ichthyosaurs evolved to such a large size in just 3 million years, much faster than whales.

As large as a large sperm whale of more than 17 meters long, it is the largest animal discovered so far in that period of time, on land or in the sea, explains in a statement the paleontologist at the University of Bonn and researcher of the Dinosaur Institute at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM), Martin Sander.

These creatures first appeared in the oceans after the Permian mass extinction , about 248 million years ago (Early Triassic epoch), and became extinct in the early Late Cretaceous, 90 million years ago. They breathed air like dolphins and had a streamlined body to move through the water, large eyes to improve depth vision, and an elongated skull with jaws full of conical teeth.

The elongated snout and conical teeth suggest the animal fed on squid and fish , but its size meant it could have also preyed on smaller, juvenile marine reptiles.

 

Fossil remains of C. youngorum were first unearthed in the Augusta Mountains in 1998, specifically in the form of fragments of the creature’s backbone. “The importance of the find was not immediately apparent, because only a few vertebrae were exposed on the side of the canyon. However, the anatomy of the vertebrae suggested that the front of the animal could still be hidden in the rocks,” added the expert.

“Since the first skeletal discoveries in southern England and Germany more than 250 years ago, these ‘fish-saurs’ were among the first large fossil reptiles known to science, long before the dinosaurs, and have captured the popular imagination. ever since,” says Sander.

Cymbospondylus youngorum is named after Tom and Bonda Young of the Great Basin Brewery, where the popular ICKY IPA beer with an ichthyosaur on the label was created. They sponsored fieldwork for the project, according to the natural history museum.

Referencia: P. Martin Sander et al. 2021. Early giant reveals faster evolution of large body size in ichthyosaurs than in cetaceans. Science 374 (6575); doi: 10.1126/science.abf5787

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