Fossils of giant whale-like creatures called ichthyosaurs found in the Swiss Alps

Fossils of three large ichthyosaurs, extinct marine reptiles that lived nearly 250 million years ago, were found in an amazing place – the Swiss Alps.

As I mentioned CNN , These ichthyosaurs are believed to have been some of the largest animals on Earth, reaching a size of 80 tons and 65 feet. Its size will be comparable to that of modern sperm whales. However, one would not expect to find large marine animals high in the Swiss Alps.

A drawing of a whale-sized ichthyosaur can be seen on the right side of the image among other marine animals. Image Credit: Heinz Furrer

Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology He published a study detailing how these ichthyosaurs found themselves at 9,186 feet above sea level, all related to the layers of rock in question that were on the floor of a vast lake about 200 million years ago.

“We believe large ichthyosaurs followed the lake’s fish shoals. The fossils may also have derived from electrolytes that died there,” study co-author Heinz Furer, retired curator at the University of Zurich’s Institute and Museum of Paleontology, said in a statement.

95 million years ago, the African tectonic plate began pushing against the European tectonic plate, causing these fossils to become “tectonically deformed,” meaning they were “pressed by the motions of the tectonic plates that pushed them into a rocky formation at the top of a mountain.”

The largest of the three ichthyosaurs found were 65 feet long and the rest were approximately 49 feet long. Perhaps the most exciting thing about this discovery was the largest tooth of an ichthyosaur ever found.

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Ichthyosaur teeth - Image Credit: Roth, University of Zurich.

Ichthyosaur teeth – Image Credit: Roth, University of Zurich.

“This is huge by ichthyosaur standards: its rootstock was 60 mm in diameter – the largest specimen still in a complete skull so far was 20 mm and came from an ichthyosaur that was about 18 meters (59 ft) long,” said the study’s lead author. P. Martin Sander, Professor of Vertebrate Paleontology at the University of Bonn, Germany.

Many of these fossils were first discovered during geological mapping of the Alps between 1976 and 1990, but the teams behind the finds have been more focused on putting them down more recently as more fossils have been found.

The ichthyosaur was previously found mainly in North America, so finding it in modern-day Switzerland reveals a lot about these creatures that we still know little about despite their size.

“It is a huge embarrassment to paleontology that we know so little about these giant ichthyosaurs despite the extraordinary size of their fossils,” Sander said. “We hope to rise to this challenge and find new and better fossils soon,” which may be “hidden under glaciers.”

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Adam Pankhurst is a news writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter Tweet embed and on Twitch.

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