A report published by CBS News on Dec. 23, noted an 8-foot-long skull discovered recently in the Augusta Mountains of Nevada, is the largest fossil ever found from its time.
The Augusta Mountains are approximately 75 miles southeast of Winnemucca, Nevada, in Churchill, Lander, and Pershing counties.
The research team believes that the remarkable discovery could provide insight into how modern whales developed, and how to preserve their presence in the oceans.
The news report said scientists claimed, “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.”
CBS News said 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 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County.
Scientists said 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.
Dr. Jorge Velez-Juarbe, an associate curator of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County said, the cymbospondylus youngorum is “a testament to the resilience of life in the oceans after the worst mass extinction in Earth’s history,” he added.
Lend Delsett and Nicholas Pyenson, who authored the report for the Natural History Museum said, “Ichthyosaur history tells us ocean giants are not guaranteed features of marine ecosystems, which is a valuable lesson for all of us. Especially if we want to sustain the presence of the surviving ocean giants among us that contribute to our own well-being.”