A shock discovery of a massive marine skull could represent the first giant animal to have first graced Earth, according to new research.
Scientists have found ancient fossils of a new species of the aquatic reptile named Cymbospondylus youngorum, which dates back to the early stages of the Age of Dinosaurs.
The astounding find was made in the Augusta Mountains in Nevada which revealed that the creature is a new type of ichthyosaur from around 246 million years ago.
Researchers were able to investigate after coming across a well-preserved skull that measured at a whopping 6.6 ft long, reports New Atlas.
The creature was able to grow at a fast pace and was able to dominate the seas for around 150 million years.
They varied in size but some of the largest stretched to over a staggering 20 m (65.6 ft) long, according to research published in the Journal Science.
It was reported that by the time it appeared in the Middle Triassic period, it could potentially have been the biggest animal our planet had ever witnessed up until that point.
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Scientists said the earliest ichthyosaurs had only popped up around three million years before C. youngorum appeared which shows the rapid speed that the creature was able to evolve.
It is believed that they were able to pull off the mega stunt due to a sudden increase in their prey.
Researchers highlighted that the planet was hit by its worst-ever extinction episode around six million years earlier at the Permian Triassic boundary.
They reported that when the ichthyosaurs splashed onto the scene, a lot of the ecological gaps were taken up by animals including fish, squid and eel-like creatures, which could have boosted the growth in species such as C. youngorum.
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