Popular Science

These ancient, swimming reptiles may have been the biggest animals of all time

England's ichthyosaurs have changed the course of paleontology again.
Reconstruction of the Shonisaurus, a giant ichthyosaur.

Reconstruction of the Shonisaurus, a giant ichthyosaur.

Nobumichi Tamura

In 2016, Paul de la Salle was walking along the beach in the British town of Lilstock when he came across a rock that looked suspiciously bone-like. Specifically, a 205-million-year-old fragment of bone, possibly belonging to the jaw of a long-extinct ichthyosaur.

De la Salle is an amateur hunter, so he knew to call experts Dean Lomax and Judy Massare to confirm the hunch. And it turned out to be quite the find: The three-foot-long piece of jawbone de la Salle eventually assembled from the Lilstock, would put the giant ichthyosaur above even the , commonly agreed to be the largest animal ever to have lived on Earth.

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