Saturday, 28 September 2013

Was leedsichthys problematicus the biggest sea animal ever seen?

A combined Scottish-Canadian team has verified the prehistoric fish leedsichthys problematicus is the biggest boned fish yet to travel the seas of our earth.

Growing to lengths of 16.5 m over a projected increase period of 40 years, the Jurassic-era fish would have outgrown even today’s immense whale sharks. Even with its imposing mass, though, leedsichthys is believed to have been a filter feeder, just like baleen whales, basking sharks and whale sharks are today.

Found in the late 19th century and formally named (after British farmer and fossil collector Alfred Leeds) in 1889, relics of leedsichthys have been unearthed throughout Europe, and in South America.

The ‘problematicus’ piece of its logical name stems from the indisputable fact that leedsichthys fossils are disreputably tricky to spot. That is due to a proven fact that leedsichthys’ skeleton #was not# made entirely of bone. Large portions #of the# animal’s internal structure were actually #made from# cartilage, just #as a# shark’s bone structure is. Cartilage #does not# mineralize as eagerly as bone and, as the result, fossil cartilage is fairly exceptional.

Out of perspective, the fossilized bones can symbolize a problem to palaeontologists. Through the years, remains of leedsichthys have even been posited as belonging to bone-plated fossil stegosaurus!

Because leedsichthys vertebrae was cartilaginous, it has been very hard to determine how long the fish may have been, with some unproven estimates signifying that it was as long as 30 metres.

Nonetheless, when a new, more complete, fossil was found near Peterborough, UK, scientists were at last in a position to acquire an exact measurement. Professor Jeff Liston, of our National Museum of Scotland, said, “We sat down and checked out a good range of specimens, not just at the bones, but their interior development set ups as well – much like the expansion rings in plants – to have some ideas about the ages of these animals, as well as their estimated dimensions,”

The team finally resolute that a tiny adult leedsichthys would grow to eight or 9 metres after some 20 years and, in another two decades; it could reach approximately 16.5 metres in length. This is greater than the whale shark, the largest bony fish existing now, despite persistent and credible reports of whale sharks growing as long as 14 metres in length.

This information is thrilling to scientists and natural history enthusiasts as it delivers a functional insight into the changes in ocean life that occurred up to and through the Jurassic era.

Scientists now accept as true that filter-feeding fish started as relatively small animals, before growing to the enormous sizes we know these days. The unbelievable mass of leedishthys problematicus thus implies that there was a huge surge within the plankton populace of the Mesozoic oceans.

The invention also demands a serious change to the record books.

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