A combined Scottish-Canadian group has confirmed the prehistoric fish leedsichthys problematicus is the largest boned fish yet to travel the seas of the world.
Mounting to lengths of 16.5 m over a projected development era of forty years, the Jurassic-era sea animal would have outgrown even today’s immense whale sharks. In spite of its grand size, though, leedsichthys is believed to have been a filter feeder, akin to baleen whales, basking sharks and whale sharks are these days.
Revealed from the late 19th century and formally named (after English farmer and fossil collector Alfred Leeds) in 1889, remains of leedsichthys have been unearthed right through Europe, and also in South America.
The ‘problematicus’ part of its logical name stems out of the proven fact that leedsichthys fossils are disreputably difficult to identify. This is due to a incontrovertible 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 a result, fossil cartilage is somewhat uncommon.
Out of context, the fossilized bones can represent a problem to palaeontologists. Over the years, remains of leedsichthys have even been posited as belonging to bone-plated fossil stegosaurus!
Because leedsichthys vertebrae was cartilaginous, it may be very hard to see how long the fish may have been, with some unconfirmed estimates suggesting that it was as long as 30 m.
Nonetheless, each time a new, more total, fossil was discovered near Peterborough, UK, scientists were finally in a position to acquire an exact measurement. Professor Jeff Liston, of the National Museum of Scotland, said, “We sat down and checked out a good series of specimens, not just at the bones, but their inner growth structures also – just like the expansion rings in plants – to have some ideas about the ages of the animals, in addition to their estimated measurements,”
The team finally determined that a tiny adult leedsichthys would grow to 8 or 9 m after some 20 years and, in an additional two decades; it could achieve about 16.5 metres in length. This is bigger than the whale shark, the biggest bony fish alive now, in spite of persistent and credible reports of whale sharks developing as long as 14 m in length.
This news is thrilling to scientists and natural history fans as it guarantees a functional insight into the alterations in ocean life that occurred up to and during the Jurassic era.
Scientists now think that filter-feeding sea animals started out as quite little animals, before increasing to the massive sizes we all know today. The outstanding size of leedishthys problematicus thus implies that there was a massive surge in the plankton population of that Mesozoic oceans.
The invention also demands a major change to the record books.
Was leedsichthys problematicus the biggest fish ever found?