CHICAGO (CBS) — Field Museum Scientists have unveiled a underwater creature looking for all the world like a dolphin with an attitude, and very sharp teeth.
The Field Museum’s Jim Holstein says the teeth were a tip off, each with a sharp edge leading and trailing which gave it an edge at meal time. It could rip and tear as well as grab and hold.
Holstein found the creature in bone dry rocks of Nevada which once hosted an inland sea courtesy of plate tectonics.
“Plates are always moving and oceans come and go over time and this has always been the case in our earth’s history, and at the time there was a sea where Nevada is now,” said Holstein.
Holstein says the ichthyosaur lived in the sea but breathed in the air, like a dolphin or whale
“Not a dinosaur at all, actually a marine reptile,” said Holstein. “The body shape looked a lot like a dolphin, it had flippers and a tail, but it is actually a reptile. The closest modern living creature is actually a terrestrial monitor lizard.”
Holstein, Collections Manager for Mineralogy at the Field Museum, said the newly reported ichthyosaur had pretty much its own way under water.
“This particular one is about 28 feet long, so it was a top tier predator and very few things could probably take it on,” said Holstein.
Holstein says the newly discovered sharp toothed ichthyosaurs blossomed relatively quickly in about eight million years after some catastrophe wiped out 85 percent of all marine creatures in the Permian extinction.
He’s hoping that the ichthyosaur history will give scientists some idea what to expect during the current species extinctions underway right now around the world.