Giant monster that may be the largest animal ever discovered in Alps

A giant monster that could be the largest animal ever to have existed has been discovered in the Alps.

The 205million-year-old ichthyosaur was identified from its fossils which were dug out at an altitude of more than 9,000 feet in Switzerland.

According to scientists, the massive marine creature was larger than a blue whale and patrolled the Panthalassa ocean surrounding the supercontinent Pangea during the Late Triassic period.

Ichthyosaurs became extinct 90 million years ago, which is a long time before the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Just like mammals they gave birth to live young, which represented a momentous evolutionary leap for these sea creatures that liberated them from having to lay eggs.

Their streamlined, fish-like form meant they could reach speeds of up to 22mph.

One of the team member's called Dr Heinz Furrer, who is a retired curator at the University of Zurich's Palaeontological Institute and Museum, said he was thrilled.

He said: "It's the world's longest ichthyosaur; with the thickest tooth found to date and the largest trunk vertebra in Europe."

Lead author Dr Martin Sandler, of the University of Bonn, said: "Maybe there are more remains of the giant sea creatures hidden beneath the glaciers".

The tooth root is twice as wide as the record that had been set previously by a ichthyosaur that was a whopping 50 feet from nose to tail.

Some other incomplete skeletal remains such as the vertebra show it dwarfed an ichthyosaur from Canada named Shonisaurus sikanniensis which was 69ft (21m) long.

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That also outgrew an 85-ft Jurassic 'sea dragon' that roamed the British coastline around the same time.

Dr Sandler said: "Bigger is always better. There are distinct selective advantages to large body size. Life will go there if it can.

"There were only three animal groups that had masses greater than 10-20 metric tonnes: long-necked dinosaurs; whales; and the giant ichthyosaurs of the Triassic.

He added: "It amounts to a major embarrassment for palaeontology that we know so little about these giant ichthyosaurs despite the extraordinary size of their fossils.

"We hope to rise to this challenge and find new and better fossils soon."

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