Paleontologists have studied several fossils of three new to science ichthyosaurs (sea dinosaurs), which were probably larger than almost all animals that ever existed on the planet. The finds were made in the Swiss Alps between 1976 and 1990 – but have only recently been studied. These include the largest ichthyosaur tooth ever discovered. It is twice the size of the ichthyosaur’s record-breaking tooth, a previous 15-meter-long reptile. Therefore, it is assumed that the ichthyosaur they are currently studying was also at least twice as large. Other incomplete skeletal remains include the largest ichthyosaur vertebra ever discovered in Europe. More than 200 million years ago, layers of rock where the remains were found covered the seabed. But together with the formation of the Alps about 35 million years ago, they found themselves at an altitude of 2800 meters. Fearless Swiss explorers had to traverse icy alpine cliffs and carry the remains of ancient sea monsters on their shoulders to describe them to the scientific community. But such a unique find was worth the effort.
Ichthyosaurs, monstrous 80-ton reptiles, inhabited Pantalasa, the global ocean around the super-continent of Pangea in the late Triassic, approximately 205 million years ago. They also “bounced” in the shallow waters of the Tethys Ocean to the eastern part of Pangea, as evidenced by new finds. Similar in shape to modern whales, ichthyosaurs had elongated bodies and vertical tail fins. These giant species are found in the largest quantities in North America. A number of finds have been made in the Himalayas and the South Pacific. In this sense, the discovery of new giants in Switzerland is unique and also significantly expands the familiar range of these ancient sea monsters. So little is known about these giants that they are almost like ghosts in paleontology. Despite the enormous size of their fossils, paleontologists still know very little about these ancient reptiles. Thanks to the new find, scientists hope to supplement their knowledge of giant ichthyosaurs, as well as find more preserved fossils.