Hungry sea monster that terrorised oceans 240million years ago dug up with giant lizard in its belly
THE LAST meal of a 240million year old sea monster has been revealed by archaeologists.
A dolphin-like ichthyosaur fossil found in a rock shows the creature ripped up another large marine reptile and ate it shortly before dying.
The dolphin-like creature ate another huge marine animal[/caption]
Experts say the fossil is an example of megapredation.
This just means it shows how large creatures were preying on other large animals at the time.
The fossil was actually discovered in 2010 in a quarry in southwestern China but has been the focus of a new study recently published in the journal iScience.
Scientists can’t say for sure if the lizard like creature in the ichthyosaur’s stomach was preyed upon or scavenged after dying of other causes.
The fossil was found in China[/caption]
Either way it is impressive to see a four metre long creature inside the stomach of another five metre monster.
The prey is thought to have been an ancient lizard-like being called Xinpusaurus xingyiensis.
Co-author Ryosuke Motani, a professor of paleobiology at the University of California, Davis said: “If you look across all the similar marine reptiles that lived in the age of dinosaurs, we’ve actually never found something articulated like this in the stomach.
The quarry is still being excavated[/caption]
“Our ichthyosaur’s stomach contents weren’t etched by stomach acid, so it must have died quite soon after ingesting this food item.
“At first, we just didn’t believe it, but after spending several years visiting the dig site and looking at the same specimens, we finally were able to swallow what we were seeing.”
Stomach contents are rarely found in marine fossils so this one is particularly exciting.
The teeth of Ichthyosaurs are fairly blunt compared to other predators at the time[/caption]
Ichthyosaurs have quite blunt teeth so previous research suggested they weren’t major predators.
Motani said: “Now, we can seriously consider that they were eating big animals, even when they had grasping teeth.
“It’s been suggested before that maybe a cutting edge was not crucial, and our discovery really supports that.
“It’s pretty clear that this animal could process this large food item using blunt teeth.”
Given the size of the Ichthyosaur’s last meal, humans probably wouldn’t stand a chance against the ancient creature if it was still around.
The site were the fossil was found is still be excavated and has been turned into a museum.
A timeline of life on Earth
The history of the planet in years…
- 4.6billion years ago – the origin of Earth
- 3.8billion years ago – first life appears on Earth
- 2.1billion years ago – lifeforms made up of multiple cells evolve
- 1.5billion years ago – eukaryotes, which are cells that contain a nucleus inside of their membranes, emerge
- 550million years ago – first arthropods evolve
- 530million years ago – first fish appear
- 470million years ago – first land plants appear
- 380million years ago – forests emerge on Earth
- 370million years ago – first amphibians emerge from the water onto land
- 320million years ago – earliest reptiles evolve
- 230million years ago – dinosaurs evolve
- 200million years ago – mammals appear
- 150million years ago – earliest birds evolve
- 130million years ago – first flowering plants
- 100million years ago – earliest bees
- 55million years ago – hares and rabbits appear
- 30million years ago – first cats evolve
- 20million years ago – great apes evolve
- 7million years ago –first human ancestors appear
- 2million years ago – Homo erectus appears
- 300,000 years ago – Homo sapiens evolves
- 50,000 years ago – Eurasia and Oceania colonised
- 40,000 years ago – Neandethal extinction
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