Triassic Megapredator’s Last Meal Was a Massive Marine Reptile

Fossil Ichthyosaur Guizhouichthyosaurus Stomach

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Closeup of the stomach location of a fossil ichthyosaur, Guizhouichthyosaurus, revealing part of the body of another big marine reptile. The ichthyosaur had actually swallowed its victim soon prior to it passed away and was fossilized. This is the earliest recognized direct proof of megapredation, or a big animal consuming another big animal. Credit: Da-Yong Jiang, et al.

Some 240 million years back, a dolphinlike ichthyosaur ripped to pieces and swallowed another marine reptile just a little smaller sized than itself. Then it practically instantly passed away and was fossilized, protecting the very first proof of megapredation, or a big animal victimizing another big animal. The fossil, found in 2010 in southwestern China, is explained in a paper released on August 20, 2020 in the journal iScience.

The ichthyosaurs were a group of marine reptiles that appeared in the oceans after the Permian mass termination, about 250 million years back. They had fishlike bodies comparable to modern-day tuna, however breathed air like dolphins and whales. Like modern-day whales or fantastic white sharks, they might have been apex predators of their environments, however up until just recently there has actually been little direct proof of this.

When a specimen of the ichthyosaur Guizhouichthyosaurus was found in Guizhou province, China, in 2010, scientists observed a big bulge of other bones within the animal’s abdominal area. On assessment, they determined the smaller sized bones as coming from another marine reptile, Xinpusaurus xingyiensis, which came from a group called thalattosaurs. Xinpusaurus was more lizardlike in look than an ichthyosaur, with 4 paddling limbs.

Ichthyosaur's Last Meal

The stomach of this 240-million years of age fossil ichthyosaur consists of the mid-section of another marine reptile that in life would have been just minor smaller sized. It’s the very first direct proof of ancient megapredation — one big animal consuming another. Credit: Da-Yong Jiang, et al, iScience

“We have never found articulated remains of a large reptile in the stomach of gigantic predators from the age of dinosaurs, such as marine reptiles and dinosaurs,” stated Ryosuke Motani, teacher of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Davis, and co-author on the paper. “We always guessed from tooth shape and jaw design that these predators must have fed on large prey but now we have direct evidence that they did.”

The Guizhouichthyosaurus was practically 5 meters (15 feet) long, while the scientists determine its victim had to do with 4 meters (12 feet) long, although thalattosaurs had skinnier bodies than ichythosaurs. The predator’s last meal seems the middle area of the thalattosaur, from its front to back limbs. Interestingly, a fossil of what seems the tail area of the animal was discovered close by.

Predators that feed upon big animals are typically presumed to have actually big teeth adjusted for slicing victim. Guizhouichthyosaurus had fairly little, peglike teeth, which were believed to be adjusted for comprehending soft victim such as the squidlike animals plentiful in the oceans at the time. However, it’s clear that you don’t require slicing teeth to be a megapredator, Motani stated. Guizhouichthyosaurus most likely utilized its teeth to grip the victim, maybe breaking the spinal column with the force of its bite, then ripped or tore the victim apart. Modern pinnacle predators such as whales, leopard seals and crocodiles utilize a comparable method.

Read Massive Reptile Discovered in the Belly of a Triassic Megapredator for more on this research study.

Reference: “Evidence Supporting Predation of 4-m Marine Reptile by Triassic Megapredator” by Da-Yong Jiang, Ryosuke Motani, Andrea Tintori, Olivier Rieppel, Cheng Ji, Min Zhou, Xue Wang, Hao Lu and Zhi-Guang Li, 20 August 2020, iScience.
DOI: 10.1016/j.isci.2020.101347

Co-authors on the research study: Da-Yong Jiang, Min Zhou, Xue Wang and Hao Lu, Peking University, China; Andrea Tintori, Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy; Olivier Rieppel, The Field Museum, Chicago; Cheng Ji, Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, China; and Zhi-Guang Li, The Geoscience Museum, Hebei GEO University, China. Funding was supplied by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and the National Geographic Society.

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