Will the sea ever stop surprsing us? I hope not. In the last week of August 2017, the largest sea dragon to date was discovered. Except, it was already in a museum.
Sven Sachs was visiting a museum to study an ancient sea reptile when one of the museum's display fossils caught his eye.
The specimen that caught his eye was hardly new. In fact, it was unearthed in the 1990s around Somerset, England. Unfortunately, it wasn't of much interest and remained unstudied. Sachs believed it was an Ichthyosaurs. Ichthyosaurses were large marine reptiles. They evolved from a group of unknown land reptiles that returned to the sea. These creatures fossils were often mistakenly believed to be dinosaur, however it was believed to be more like a sea dragon. Basically, they swam like eels, had long bodies, and were BIG.
Back to Dr. Sachs who said about "rediscovering" the fossil, "I found it very extraordinary," said Sachs. "[It was] way bigger than any specimen I had examined." After consultation and examination, it was determined that the specimen was of the species Ichthyosaurus somersetensis, the largest of its kind estimating it to be about 10 feet long. In addition to its impressive size, this particular specimen also was carrying a small, seven-centimeter embryo when it died.
One of the reasons it's impressiveness wasn't acknowledged until decades later is because the museum had mistakenly given it the tail of a different Ichthyosaurus species to make it look more complete.
According to National Geographic, "Sachs believes other unexplored museum collections have the potential to reveal undiscovered species." It is amazing that this new "terrain" of paletology has been opened. Who knows what could be lurking in the dozens upon dozens of unexplored collections that could be hiding secret gems like this one!
The above image is NOT of the specific Ichthyosaurus, but from a visitor to the Natural History Museum in London. Liscensed by CC BY-SA 3.0. "Fossil of Ichthyosaurus, an extinct reptile-- Took the photo at Natural History Museum, London" taken by Ghedoghedo.