Palaeontology: Fish dinosaur discovery in southern England - Triops Galaxy

Palaeontology: Eleven-year-old finds remains of fish dinosaur in Great Britain

In Somerset in southern England, at the mouth of the River Severn, Ruby Reynolds and her father went in search of fossils along the beach in 2020. What began as a simple expedition quickly turned into a remarkable discovery when they uncovered fragments of a jawbone. Upon closer inspection, they recognised the similarity to the bones of an ichthyosaur, which had already been described in 2018. The researchers at the University of Manchester have now analysed these finds in more detail.

Probably the largest species of ichthyosaur known to date

The lower jaw bone found by the Reynolds proved to be more complete and better preserved than the one described in 2018. After reconstructing the fragments, it turned out to be around 2.3 metres long. In comparison, a lower jawbone of the ichthyosaur species Besanosaurus leptorhynchus measured around 5.4 metres in total. The distinctive features of the remains of Ichthyotitan severnensis were about five times further apart than the comparable Besanosaurus bone, suggesting that this ichthyosaur was about five times as long. However, the scientists emphasise that this estimate is based on fragmentary remains and that more complete specimens are needed to confirm the giant size.

The reaction of ichthyosaur expert Dean Lomax from the University of Manchester was extremely impressed. He invited Ruby to become part of his research team to describe the discovery. After analysing the bone fragments, it became clear that Ruby and her father had found the remains of an enormous marine reptile. It is believed that the entire animal was more than 25 metres long. The results of their investigation, together with Ruby, were published today in the scientific journal PLOS One. The newly discovered dinosaur was named Ichthyotitan severnensis, which means “giant fish lizard of the Severn”.

If the data is confirmed, Ruby’s discovery would not only be the largest species of ichthyosaur known to date, but also the youngest. The fossils come from a formation that is around 202 million years old – 13 million years younger than previously known giant ichthyosaurs.

201 million years ago, the fifth largest mass extinction in the history of the earth took place, in which all large ichthyosaurs presumably also died out. These marine reptiles never reached a comparable size again and disappeared completely around 93 million years ago.

The researchers are hoping for further finds. “These jawbones suggest that a complete skull or skeleton of one of these giants may one day be found,” said Lomax. It is even possible that the ichthyosaur’s 25 metre length could be surpassed, as an examination of the bone tissue by a co-author of the study suggests that Ruby’s ichthyosaur was probably not yet fully grown.

Sladjan Lazic

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