Washington, Oct 10 (ANI): Long before whales, the oceans of Earth were roamed by a very different kind of air-breathing leviathan.
Snaggle-toothed ichthyosaurs larger than school buses swam at the top of the Triassic Period ocean food chain, it is believed.
Now, a Mount Holyoke College paleontologist Mark McMenamin thinks there was an even larger and more cunning sea monster that preyed on ichthyosaurs after he studied at some of their remains in Nevada: the mythological kraken.
The evidence is at Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park in Nevada. It's a site where the remains of nine 45-foot (14-meter) ichthyosaurs, of the species Shonisaurus popularis can be found.
When they arrived at the remote state park and started looking at the fossils, McMenamin was struck by their strangeness.
"It became very clear that something very odd was going on there. It was a very odd configuration of bones," said McMenamin.
First of all, the different degrees of etching on the bones suggested that the shonisaurs were not all killed and buried at the same time.
It also looked like the bones had been purposefully rearranged. That it got him thinking about a particular modern predator that is known for just this sort of intelligent manipulation of bones.
"Modern octopus will do this," McMenamin said.
What if there was an ancient, very large sort of octopus, like the kraken of mythology.
"I think that these things were captured by the kraken and taken to the midden and the cephalopod would take them apart," he said.
In the fossil bed, some of the shonisaur vertebral disks are arranged in curious linear patterns with almost geometric regularity, McMenamin said.
The proposed Triassic kraken, which could have been the most intelligent invertebrate ever, arranged the vertebral discs in double line patterns, with individual pieces nesting in a fitted fashion as if they were part of a puzzle.
The findings will be presented at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Minneapolis. (ANI)