On Thursday, Dec. 23, researches reported that they have discovered a 55-foot-long Triassic sea monster in Nevada.
The ancient sea monster existed in the early days of the dinosaurs. Its species developed to enormous proportions in only 2.5 million years of evolutionary time.
The new species was given the name Cymbospondylus youngorum (C.youngorum). During the Triassic period, this large-jawed marine reptile lived 247 million years ago.
“Imagine a sea-dragon-like animal: streamlined body, quite long, with limbs modified to fins, and a long tail,” said senior researcher Lars Schmitz, an associate professor of biology at Scripps College in Claremont, California.
The researchers discovered that an adult C. youngorum might reach more than 55 feet (17 meters) long, or over a half the length of an animal, with a head nearly 6.5 feet (2 meters) long.
According to Schmitz, the 45-ton (41-ton) C. youngorum would have lived in the Panthalassic Ocean, a mega ocean off the west coast of North America.
Ancient ichthyosaur fossils were discovered in the Augusta Mountains of northeastern Nevada in 1998.
“Only a few vertebrae were sticking out of the rock, but it was clear the animal was large,” Schmitz claimed according to LiveScience.
However, until 2015 they could excavate the whole individual, including a skull, shoulder, and shrapnel-like appendages. They later brought it to the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, where it was prepped and evaluated, thanks to the assistance of helicopters.
C. youngorum existed only 5 million years after “the Great Dying,” a vast extinction catastrophe that killed over 90% of the world’s species 252 million years ago at the end of the Permian period.
“This new fossil impressively documents the fast-track evolution of gigantism in ichthyosaurs,”. In contrast, whales “take a different route to gigantism, which is much longer and not nearly as fast, said Schmitz.