Scientists find monster marine reptile fossil with ‘arsenal of teeth’

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The fossil skull of Kyhytysuka sachicarum has a sensational dentition.

Dirley Cortes

There is a new entry in the annals of sea animals with bizarre teeth. An international team of researchers has discovered a new species of ichthyosaur, a marine reptile that lived during the time of the dinosaurs. The 130-million-year-old fossil skull is particularly notable for its spectacular chompers.

“While other ichthyosaurs had small, equal-sized teeth to feed on small prey, this new species altered the size and spacing of its teeth to build an arsenal of teeth for sending large prey, such as large fish and other marine reptiles “, Hans larsson, director of the Redpath Museum, said Monday in a statement from McGill University.

The new species, which was found in central Colombia, is called Kyhytysuka sachicarum. Kyhytysuka comes from the indigenous Muisca language and translates to “one who cuts with something sharp”. The team published a study on the fossil this month in the Journal of Systemic Palaeontology.

McGill released an animation showing what the ichthyosaur might have looked like swimming with its teeth out. It’s not the sort of thing you would want to encounter if you were prey.

Kyhytysuka was alive in the early Cretaceous after an extinction event at the end of the Jurassic period. “We are discovering many new species in the rocks from which this new ichthyosaur originated,” said lead author Dirley Cortes, a graduate student at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. “We are testing the idea that this region and time in Colombia was a former biodiversity hotspot and are using fossils to better understand the evolution of marine ecosystems during this period of transition.”

Kykytysuka skeleton compared to a human for the scale. Known bones are white.

Dirley Cortes

Cortes called Kyhytysuka an “ichthyosaur monster,” a description that strikes home when you see an illustration of the reptile compared to the size of a human. He would have been an intimidating predator in his day.

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