Discovery of a 17-meter-long Triassic-era sea monster in Nevada

The sea monster, which lived in the early days of the dinosaurs, is unexpectedly very large, indicating that these animals evolved to such a high speed. The discovery shows that reptiles or ichthyosaurs (a group of fish-shaped sea reptiles that lived in the seas of the dinosaur era) have reached this massive size in just 2.5 million years.

To better understand this, you should know that about 90% of the 55-million-year history of whales took them to reach the size that ichthyosaurs reached in the first 1% of their 150-million-year history. Lars Schmitz, a senior researcher and associate professor of biology at Scripps College in California, told LiveScience:

Actiesurs reached great proportions much faster than whales, and this happened at a time when the world was recovering from destructive extinction (at the end of the Permian period). This is a sign of the flexibility of life and shows that if the environmental conditions are right, evolution can happen at a high rate and life can be revived.

Icterus / Cymbospondylus youngorum

A picture of Cymbospondylus youngorum in an ocean from the Triassic age that is full of life. In this oceanic environment, ammonites (squid) and squid were abundant.

Researchers first discovered ichthyosaur fossils trapped in the cliffs of the Augusta Mountains in northwestern Nevada in 1998. “Only a few beads came out of the rock, but it turned out to be a big animal,” Schmitz said. Researchers finally managed to completely remove it from the rocks by helicopter in 2015. The remaining fossils, including the skull, shoulder, and bald appendage, were transferred to the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles, where they were prepared, analyzed, and analyzed.

Researchers recently reported a new species in the journal Science Cymbospondylus youngorum Is named. This reptile, which had very large jaws, lived during the Triassic 247 million years ago. The animal, like other creatures of the time, was strange. “Imagine an animal that looks like a sea dragon: a double-shaped, very tall body with limbs and a long tail,” says Schmitz.

The researchers found that with a skull about two meters long, the length of the body C. youngorum The adult could reach 17 meters or larger than a semi-trailer. When it was alive, the 45-ton animal lived in the global ocean of Pantalasa off the west coast of North America. Based on the size and shape of the teeth, C. youngorum It probably eats smaller ichthyosaurs, fish, and possibly squid.

Actiusor size compared to humans / Cymbospondylus youngorum

The size of the new ichthyosaur may be best illustrated by the size of a human

Many large animals lived in the age of the dinosaurs, but C. youngorum It is prominent for several reasons. For example, this animal lived only 5 million years after the extinction of the Permian (Great Death). The Permian extinction was a mass extinction that occurred 252 million years ago at the end of the Permian period and wiped out about 90% of all species in the world.

According to a 2012 study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, what makes icicle size much more remarkable is that it took about 9 million years for life to recover after extinction. However, a 2012 study found that within one to three million years of the Permian mass extinction, the diversity of a group of marine mollusks called ammonites increased dramatically. According to the researchers in the new study, the achievement of ichthyosaurs of gigantic size appears to have been due in part to feeding on jawless ammonites and eel conodonts that filled the ecological void after mass extinction.

“Whales, on the other hand, grew up eating high-yielding early producers such as plankton, but these creatures did not exist in the dinosaur-era food networks,” said Eva Maria Gribler, another author and evolutionary ecologist at Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany.

Comparison of whale and ichthyosaur / Cymbospondylus youngorum

Direct comparison of two ocean giants from different periods: Cymbopsondylus youngorum from the Triassic (a new species described in the article) compared to modern-day amber whales and humans.

The evolution of the size of the icicle

The evolution of large body size in ichthyosaurs occurred much faster than in whales. The curves show the trend of the largest body size, based on the percentage of the largest size ever obtained for ichthyosaurs and whales. In the beginning, the slope of the icicle’s curve is much larger than that of the whale.

Transfer of icicle fossils by helicopter

Researchers needed helicopters to fly ichthyosaur fossils from remote, rugged mountains of Augusta in Nevada

Despite the different paths and timelines of whales and ichthyosaurs in order to achieve large sizes, the two groups also have some similarities. For example, there is a connection between large size and hunting: amber whales that dive into the water to catch giant squid. There is also a link between large size and tooth loss: like large whales that have no teeth and have structures in the mouth that filter food in the water. Schmitz said:

The new fossil dramatically documents the rapid evolution of large body size in ichthyosaurs. In contrast, whales have taken a different path to reach the size of a large body, which has been much longer and slower.

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