When excavating a quarry in southwestern China, the paleontologists discovered a fantastic find. The soil layers obscured the well-preserved, almost complete skeleton of a giant dolphin-like marine reptile known as an ichthyosaurus. Imagine the surprise of the scientists when in the belly of an ancient fossil they found another perfectly preserved specimen of antiquity. The second skeleton belonged to a four-meter reptile, a talattosaurus, an extinct creature that looks like a huge lizard.
The reptile and its dinner will be subjected to scrutiny and various types of research. But even today, the science believes that the previously established statements of the nutrition of reptiles of the Triassic period with cephalopods are erroneous. Ichthyosaurs could actually be mega-predators.
University of California professor Ryosuke Motani believes that he and his colleagues are incredibly lucky. The contents of the stomach of the ichthyosa tomorrow were practically not exposed to stomach acid, the reptile died very soon after it was inside the ichthyosa. In marine fossils of ancient organisms, stomach contents are rarely found.
But if it happens, the scientists try to find out as much as possible about what prehistoric predators ate. They had a special shape of teeth, with sharp cutting edges. In contrast to them, for example, modern crocodiles have completely blunt teeth, and they capture their prey, not tear them apart.
The ichthyosa tomorrow turned out to have teeth similar to a crocodile - they are not sharp, but dull. That is why it was assumed that these ancient giants did not tear the prey that were cephalopods, to pieces, but swallowed it whole.
The first studies of the fossil remains showed that the leading edge of the ichthyosaur's teeth is not decisive; the animal processed its dinner with the blunt teeth. But it is not known yet whether the Tallatosaurus was swallowed whole without a fight.
In the stomach of the predator, its body disintegrated - the tail was at a great distance, separate from the body. That led the scientists to believe that the tail was torn off and swallowed, and the reptile itself followed it into the stomach.