A joint Scottish-Canadian team has proven that the primitive sea animal leedsichthys problematicus is the largest boned fish ever to wander the seas of the world.
Mounting to lengths of 16.5 metres over a projected development phase of forty years, the Jurassic-era fish would have outgrown even today’s massive whale sharks. In spite of its imposing mass, however, leedsichthys is believed to have been a filter feeder, akin to baleen whales, basking sharks and whale sharks are at present.
Found in the late 19th century and formally named (after English farmer and fossil collector Alfred Leeds) in 1889, remnants of leedsichthys have been unearthed right through Europe, and also in South America.
The ‘problematicus’ piece of its logical identity stems through the proven fact that leedsichthys fossils are infamously tricky to identify. It 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 willingly as bone and, as the result, fossil cartilage is a little bit uncommon.
Out of context, the fossilized bones can characterize a challenge 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 hard to determine how long the fish may have been, with some unproven estimates signifying that it was as long as 30 m.
Yet, each time a new, more absolute, fossil was found near Peterborough, UK, scientists were at last able to get an precise measurement. Professor Jeff Liston, of our National Museum of Scotland, said, “We sat down and looked at a wide range of specimens, not just at the bones, but their inner development set ups as well – much like the growth rings in trees – to have some ideas with the ages of these animals, in addition to their estimated dimensions,”
The team eventually resolute that a small adult leedsichthys would grow to 8 or 9 metres after some 20 years and, in another two decades; it could achieve about 16.5 metres in length. This is larger than the whale shark, the largest bony fish existing today, regardless of persistent and credible reports of whale sharks growing as long as 14 m in length.
This information is exciting to scientists and natural history fanatics as it offers a functional insight into the changes in ocean life that occurred around and through the Jurassic period.
Scientists now accept as true that filter-feeding fish began as relatively small animals, before increasing to massive sizes we all know today. The unbelievable mass of leedishthys problematicus thus implies that there was a massive surge within the plankton population of that Mesozoic oceans.
The invention also requires a serious change to our record books.
Was leedsichthys problematicus the biggest fish ever seen?