Thalattoarchon saurophagisâ€”which translates to “lizard-eating sovereign of the sea”â€”was at least 28 feet (8.6 meters) long and lived about 244 million years ago during the Triassic period, said study co-author Nadia FrÃ¶bisch of Berlin’s Museum of Natural History.
The bus-size beast was an early ichthyosaur, part of a group of reptiles that prowled the world’s seas during the dinosaur era.
The Thalattoarchon fossil, partially excavated in 1998, was unusually well preserved, including the skull, fins, and entire vertebral column. “It is pretty amazing, particularly for an animal this size,” said FrÃ¶bisch, who is also a National Geographic explorer.
But more compelling to FrÃ¶bisch were reports of the animal’s fearsome teeth, briefly spotted on the last day of the 1998 expedition.
So, in 2010, FrÃ¶bisch and colleagues returned to the Nevada site to dig up the rest of the fossil. In the process, the scientists discovered an enormous skull and jaw-laden with large, sharp teeth that are big enough to carve up other large marine reptiles, she said.