Oldest ‘fish-lizard’ fossils ever found suggest these sea monsters survived the ‘Great Dying’

An artist’s interpretation of what the recently discovered ichthyosaur may have looked like. (Image credit: Esther van Hulsen/Uppsala University)

Ancient “fish lizards” swam around in Earth’s oceans 250 million years ago, long before scientists thought they first emerged, a new study finds.

Researchers in 2014 discovered the fossilized remains of an ichthyosaur on Spitsbergen, a remote Arctic island in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. Ichthyosaurs are an extinct, fish-like lizard whose body shape resembled that of modern dolphins and toothed whales. The remains, which consist of 11 caudal vertebrae, were trapped in a limestone boulder that dated to the early Triassic period, making the fossils the oldest remains of an ichthyosaur ever discovered and the oldest evidence of marine reptiles.

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