Large Ocean Fossil Discovered in Nevada Could Hold Key To Aquatic Evolution

An 8-foot-long skull discovered in the Augusta Mountains of Nevada is the largest fossil ever found from its time. The research team believes that the remarkable discovery could provide insight into how modern whales developed, and how to preserve their presence in our oceans. From a report: The fossil -- a newly discovered species of ichthyosaur, a type of large aquatic reptile -- dates to about 246 million years ago. The newly-named cymbospondylus youngorum is, according to the research team, the largest animal found from that time period, both in the sea and on land. It currently holds the title of the first giant animal to ever inhabit Earth. The well-preserved skull was excavated along with part of the creature's backbone, shoulder and forefin. At more than 55 feet long, the ichthyosaur was estimated to be the size of a large sperm whale, according to the study released Thursday by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County. The ichthyosaur has an elongated snout and conical teeth, leading researchers to believe it ate squid and fish. It also could have hunted smaller marine reptiles and younger members of its species.

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