• Beth Kilgo

Giant warm-blooded reptile swam off the coast of England 200 millions years ago

While dinosaurs live in the imaginations of children, scientists and those who are just interested in them, they’re still a topic many find fascinating despite how long they have been extinct, and so much is still unknown about them. Recently, a fossil collector found a mandible of a long-extinct, sea-dwelling reptile. Scientists believe that it was swimming off the English cost over 200 million years ago.

A jaw bone, measured to be one meter in length, was found by a fossil collector on a beach in southwestern England. The bone is theorized to have belonged to “a huge predatory,” according to the BBC.

According to the BBC, “The creature would have been one of the largest ever known, behind only blue whales and dinosaurs,” putting the sheer size of these reptiles into perspective.

Ichthyosaurs were long, flexible reptiles that most likely swam in a similar fashion to modern day eels and were built for speed, much like tunas or mackerels. Recent fossils hint at the fact that the ichthyosaurs gave birth to live young and never had to leave the water to lay eggs in the water; they had no gills but could not leave the water, so it is theorized that they breathed like modern whales . Although the ichthyosaur was a reptile, they were most likely warm-blooded.

Appearing in the Triassic era, 251.902 million years ago, the ichthyosaurs disappeared in the Cretaceous era, 145.5 million years ago. The ichthyosaur died out several million years before the last dinosaurs died out and was among the first fossils found when the concepts of evolution were beginning to take shape. The first full fossil of an ichthyosaur was found in 1810; the discovery had a large impact on the scientific world, leading to new ideas about earth’s history.