Marine life has experienced many years of evolution, and many creatures such as whales that we know today have evolved over tens of thousands of years to evolve to their current size.
About 246 million years ago, a sea reptile roamed the length of a humpback whale in the oceans over present-day Nevada. The size of this ichthyosaur was not the only thing notable about it, according to scientists who recently analyzed a partial skeleton from the Augusta Mountains.
In particular, the new species lived only a few million years after the very first ichthyosaurs – which were roughly dog-sized – appeared in the fossil record. This means that these swimmers oversized themselves much faster than whales did, according to research reported on Science.
“This fossil combined with [other] The fauna we find in Nevada is a true testament to how resilient life is and how fast evolution can progress if environmental conditions are right and the opportunity is there, ”says study co-author Lars Schmitz, a paleontologist at the WM Keck Science Institute for Claremont McKenna, Scripps and Pitzer Colleges.
“Even after a massive extermination event where the whole world is in revolt, life can vary really, really fast.”
Ichthyosaurs first appeared 249 million years ago and chased the world’s oceans for the next 150 million years before becoming extinct.
They had streamlined bodies, flippers and big eyes that gave them a slightly dolphin-like appearance, Schmitz says.
Ichthyosaurs also shared a few similarities with whales – whales, dolphins and guinea pigs. Both groups have evolved from terrestrial animals that returned to the ocean and developed similar body plans, including powerful tails to swim through the water. In some cases, they also grew in size.
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