A maxillary bone dated as 205 million-year-old has been depicted to belong to one of the most important animals of all time, a prehistoric aquatic reptile, according to an international team of paleontologists. The researchers discovered that the fossils found on Lilstock Beach, in Somerset, belonged to an Ichthyosaur, an impressive aquatic reptile that could’ve grown as long as 26 meters.
A fortunate unique discovery
Paul de la Salle, one of the study’s authors, unearthed the fossilized maxillary bone from the Lilstock Beach, in Somerset, in 2016.
After studying the bone, De La Salle went back on the Lilstock Beach and found more fossilized bone that, when he put them together, measured approximately 1 meter.
De La Salle declared that, at first, the piece of maxillary bone seemed to him like a rock or something similar but after he acknowledged a channel and a bone arrangement in the sample, he immediately considered that his onto something big there.
He contacted Dean Lomax from the University of Manchester and Judy Massare from the SUNY College, in Brockport, NY, USA, and told them about the discovery.
This new Ichthyosaur might be the largest prehistoric aquatic reptile ever found
Lomax and Massare classified the piece of bone as incomplete, scientifically known as surangular bone, which is found in the lower part of an Ichthyosaur’s maxillary structure.
Researchers compared their bone sample with the some Ichthyosaurs and even went to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Alberta, Canada, to analyze the 21-meter long Ichthyosaur, the Shastasaurid Shonisaurus Sikanniensis, which was, until now, the biggest that has ever been found.
They discovered many similarities and concluded that the fossilized maxillary bones found on Lilstock Beach belonged to big Ichthyosaur, very similar to a Shastasaurid Shonisaurus.
By comparing the Royal Tyrrell Museum’s 21-meter long Shastasaurid Shonisaurus Sikanniensis’ jaw with the recently found one, the scientists were able to estimate that the newly unearthed Ichthyosaur could be by 25% longer. Accordingly, the new Ichthyosaur could’ve been about 25-meter long, making in it the largest prehistoric aquatic reptile that has ever been found.