New sea monster discovered in Nevada

Thalattoarchon saurophagis' razor-sharp teeth set it apart. Photo: John Weinstein, The Field Museum, Chicago

Thalattoarchon saurophagis’ razor-sharp teeth set it apart. Photo: John Weinstein, The Field Museum, Chicago

It might be in the desert, but the discovery of the newest species of ichthyosaur has roots all the way back in Chicago.

Field Museum scientists Jim Holstein, Martin Sander and Olivier Rieppel and their team discovered Thalattoarchon saurophagis, a marine reptile that researchers believe was an apex predator when the area around present-day Nevada lay under a deep sea about 244 million years ago.

All previous ichthyosaur fossils have cone-shaped teeth like a dolphin, which can help the animal catch prey, but not slice it. the fearsome 28-foot-long saurophagis is a different story.

We talked with Olivier Rieppel, an expert in ancient reptiles and amphibians, about the team’s discovery.

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