Fossil of 52ft fish found

Scientists have discovered the fossil of a 52ft fish – longer than a double decker bus.

The huge plankton-eating fish, named Leedsichthys lived 160 million years ago and is thought to have been made extinct at the same time as the dinosaurs.

Researchers from the University of Bristol believe that the fish could have reached around nine metres long in 20 years, before reaching 16.5m long over a period of 38 years and outgrowing today’s whale sharks.

The unusual name, Leedsichthys means ‘Leeds’ fish’ and derives from fossil collector, Alfred Nicholson Leeds, who discovered it in Peterborough in 1886.

When originally found in the 19th Century, the fossils were so fragmented that they were difficult to identify and researchers were unsure of the creature’s length.

But researchers from University of Bristol have determined how long the creature was by the position of its gills.

Professor Jeff Liston of the University of Kunming in China said: “The existence of these large suspension-feeding fish at this time is highly significant as it would seem to be clear evidence of a major change in plankton populations in the oceans of Jurassic Earth.

“This has implications for our understanding of biological productivity in modern oceans and how that productivity has changed over time.

“We looked at a wide range of specimens, not just the bones but also their internal growth structures – similar to the growth rings in trees – to get some idea about the ages of these animals as well as their estimated sizes.”

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