Chinese scientists find fossil of large extinct marine reptile ichthyosaurs for the second time since 1960s
Published: May 17, 2023 09:17 PM Updated: May 17, 2023 09:12 PM
Photo: CCTV

Photo: CCTV

Chinese scientists have found the fossil of ichthyosaurs, a species of large extinct marine reptiles which first appeared around 250 million years ago, in the Himalayas region. It’s the second time for Chinese scientists to find the fossil of the special aquatic reptiles since the 1960s when they were discovered for the first time. 

According to the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, the group of about 20 scientists from the institute found the fossil of large marine vertebrates dating back to the Triassic period in the Tingri county and Nyalam county in Southwest China's Xizang (Tibet) Autonomous Region in January this year. 

The scientists identified the fossil come from ichthyosaurs by judging from the structure of the fossil bones. 

Ichthyosaurs were a group of extinct marine reptiles that lived in the Mesozoic era and appeared several million years earlier than dinosaurs. 

They evolved into gigantic bodies measuring over 10 meters in length in the oceans over 200 million years ago, becoming the earliest vertebrates of large size in the history of life evolution and the true rulers of the marine world in the Mesozoic era. 

There does not exist a significant amount of fossil of these Triassic marine behemoths. Particularly during the middle to late stages of Late Triassic, the fossils of ichthyosaurs, have been found in only a few regions around the world, include the western margins of the North American continent, the Alpine region of Europe, and the Himalayan region of China. 

In China, the ichthyosaur fossils in the Mount Everest region are primarily distributed in the marine strata of the Late Triassic Qulong Gongba Formation. In a further investigation in April this year, the scientific research team found ichthyosaurs fossils in several places apart from Gangga in Tingri county. 

Apart from the larger adult ichthyosaur fossil bones, the research team has also discovered small and slender ribs, which are believed to be fossilized skeletal remains of juvenile Himalayas ichthyosaurs or small individuals of a new ichthyosaur species. 

The research team has also discovered a large number of associated fossils such as ammonites and bivalves, which provide further information for the understanding of the Tethys paleo-oceanic ecosystem in the Triassic period.

Global Times