A joint Scottish-Canadian group has proven that the prehistoric sea animal leedsichthys problematicus is the largest boned fish ever to wander the seas of our planet.
Mounting to lengths of 16.5 metres over a projected development period of 40 years, the Jurassic-era fish would have outgrown even today’s massive whale sharks. Although its daunting size, yet, leedsichthys is believed to have been a filter feeder, exactly like baleen whales, basking sharks and whale sharks are now.
Found from the late 19th century and officially named (after British farmer and fossil collector Alfred Leeds) in 1889, remains of leedsichthys have been unearthed right through Europe, and in South America.
The ‘problematicus’ piece of its technical brand stems from the indisputable fact that leedsichthys fossils are disreputably tricky to spot. This is due to the 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 readily as bone and, as the result, fossil cartilage is a little bit uncommon.
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 dinosaur stegosaurus!
Because leedsichthys vertebrae was cartilaginous, it has been very difficult to see how long the fish may have been, with some unsupported estimates signifying that it was as long as 30 metres.
Still, each time a new, more complete, fossil was discovered near Peterborough, UK, scientists were eventually in a position to acquire an accurate measurement. Professor Jeff Liston, of our National Museum of Scotland, said, “We sat down and looked at a large series of specimens, not just at the bones, but their interior development set ups as well – similar to the growth rings in trees – to have some ideas with the ages of the animals, along with their estimated sizes,”
The team eventually resolute that a little adult leedsichthys would grow to 8 or 9 metres after some 20 years and, in an additional 20 years; it could achieve roughly 16.5 m in length. This is larger than the whale shark, the largest bony fish active these days, despite persistent and credible reports of whale sharks growing as long as 14 m in length.
This information is exciting to scientists and natural history enthusiasts because it delivers a useful insight into the alterations in ocean life that occurred around and through the Jurassic period.
Scientists now accept as true that filter-feeding fish started as moderately small animals, before growing to massive sizes we know these days. The incredible size of leedishthys problematicus thus implies that there was a huge surge within the plankton population of that Mesozoic oceans.
The discovery also demands a serious change to our records.