Last Surviving “Fish Lizard” Swordfish Discovered

Written by Austin S.
Updated: May 30, 2022
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A new study out of Colombia has announced the discovery of a new marine reptile.  The reptile is one of the last surviving ichthyosaurs.  Ichthyosaurs are a type of marine reptile that lived during the Cretaceous epoch. The Latin name for ichthyosaurs means “fish lizard” due to their marine habitat but lizard-like features. 

This particular ichthyosaur’s skull was found. The well preserved skull is almost a meter long, and has a long bill similar to that of today’s swordfish. The skull also has a different style of teeth compared to other ichthyosaurs. The Kyhytysuka, or the one that cuts with something sharp, has teeth more adept at eating large prey such as big fish or other marine reptiles. 

The reptile is hard to describe as it is so different from any living animal. However, McGill University created an animated video with an imagined image of the Kyhtysuka.

The discovery of the Kyhytysuka comes at a time when many late Cretaceous period fossils are being uncovered in the Colombia region. This indicates that Colombia may have been a hotspot for biodiversity just prior to the late-Cretaceous extinction. 

History of Ichthyosaurs

Ichthyosaurs are one of the best preserved dinosaur fossils out there. Species from the Jurassic period have been uncovered in impressive detail from the bottom of the Jurassic sea in what is now Western Europe. 

However, despite their preservation, ichthyosaurs are one of history’s more mysterious dinosaurs. According to research, the ichthyosaurs died out around ten million years ago, just before the Cretaceous extinction. Prior to their extinction, this species ruled the oceans. They varied greatly in size with some species being smaller than modern-day porpoises while others were the size of today’s whales.

Despite their prolific migratory patterns and species diversity, there are no modern-day relatives of ichthyosaurs. Whales were once believed to be their descendents, but that theory was dispelled since ichthyosaurs never had blubber. 

Nevertheless, researchers have spent lots of time studying ichthyosaurs trying to better understand the reptile fish. At one point, they likened the animal to modern-day platypuses, another evolutionary puzzle. Despite the related names that stuck with the genus for decades, ichthyosaurs are not actually related to the egg-laying mammal. 

More likely the ichthyosaur simply did not evolve fast enough to keep up with the changing geologic forces, ultimately leading to the genus’ extinction.

What The Kyhytysuka Discovery Could Mean For Future Research

Researchers have stated that this species of ichthyosaur is from a key period in the Cretaceous epoch and its discovery could hold the answer to some of their questions regarding ichthyosaur evolution during this transitional period. 

After the Jurassic period extinction, many species of reptiles, mammals, and more were wiped out. The early Crestaceous period came after and was a wild transitional period not just for evolution, but also for the Earth. 

The Earth was coming out of a cool period. Pangea was splitting up and the oceans were rising. Due to the Jurassic extinction, many Jurassic marine ecosystems containing deep-water feeding ichthyosaurs and Jurassic crocodiles were followed by new lineages of sea turtles, large marine lizards, and now the Kyhytysuka. 

This discovery gives researchers new insight to these evolutionary processes during this transitional time. In conjunction with the other fossils being uncovered in Colombia, researchers may be able to paint a more clear picture of the marine ecosystems of the Cretaceous epoch. 

This will eventually help answer the question: what evolutionary mess-up caused ichthyosaurs’ extinction?

The photo featured at the top of this post is © YuRi Photolife/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Growing up in rural New England on a small scale farm gave me a lifelong passion for animals. I love learning about new wild animal species, habitats, animal evolutions, dogs, cats, and more. I've always been surrounded by pets and believe the best dog and best cat products are important to keeping our animals happy and healthy. It's my mission to help you learn more about wild animals, and how to care for your pets better with carefully reviewed products.

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  4. , Available here: https://eartharchives.org/articles/the-evolution-of-ichthyosaurs-the-mighty-fish-lizards-of-the-mesozoic/index.html