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Giant Reptile Predator That Fed On Similar-Sized Prey

10 January 2013

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MessageToEagle.com - An international team of scientists has described a fossil marine predator, comparable to modern orca whales and measuring 8.6 meters in length (about 28 feet) recovered from a remote mountain range in central Nevada in 2010.

The 244-million-year-old fossil, named Thalattoarchon saurophagis (lizard-eating sovereign of the sea) is an early representative of the ichthyosaurs, a group of marine reptiles - capable of feeding on animals with bodies similar in size to its own - that lived at the same time as dinosaurs and roamed the oceans for 160 million years.

It had a massive skull and jaws armed with large teeth with cutting edges used to seize and slice through other marine reptiles in the Triassic seas.


Left: skull of Thalattoarchon saurophagis in dorsal and left lateral view, scale bar – 100 mm. Right: reconstruction of the skull, scale bar: 100 mm. Credits: Fröbisch NB et al.


Remarkably, only eight million years prior to the appearance of Thalattoarchon, a severe extinction at the end of the Permian period killed as many as 80 to 96 percent of species in the Earth's oceans. The rise of a predator such as Thalattoarchon documents the fast recovery and evolution of a modern ecosystem structure after the extinction.

"Everyday we learn more about the biodiversity of our planet including living and fossil species and their ecosystems," Dr Nadia Fröbisch of the Museum für Naturkunde, Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany, said.



"The new find characterizes the establishment of a new and more advanced level of ecosystem structure. Findings like Thalattoarchon help us to understand the dynamics of our evolving planet and ultimately the impact humans have on today's environment."

"This discovery is a good example of how we study the past in order to illuminate the future," said Dr. Rieppel of The Field Museum.

A paper with their description will appear the week of January 7, 2013 in the EE (early electronic) issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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See also:
Can Scientists Really Resurrect Dinosaurs, The Neanderthal Man And Other Extinct Species?

Fascinating Gigantic Creatures Today Totally Extinct 13,000 Years Ago Coexisted With Early Americans

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