Fossils of giant deep-sea predator Himalayasaurus unearthed in southwest China

Chinese scientists discover Himalayasaurus fossils in Tibet at 4,000m altitude, contributing to understanding prehistoric life on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
Kavita Verma
Himalayasaurus tibetensis
Himalayasaurus tibetensis


At an altitude of 13,123 feet (4,000 meters) above sea level in the Tibet Autonomous Region in southwest China, Chinese scientists have unearthed an amazing discovery of fossils from the prehistoric deep-sea predator known as Himalayasaurus. The discovery illuminates the Mesozoic Era's evolution of life in the area.

Near Gangkar Town in Dingri County, which is around 600 miles (100 kilometers) from the mountaineering base camp of Mt. Qomolangma, popularly known as Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, two specimens of Himalayasaurus fossils were discovered. This most recent discovery advances our knowledge of the largest prehistoric animal discovered on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

Prior to the reign of the dinosaurs on land 210 million years ago, an ancient reptile, the Himalayasaurus, ruled the seas. With a body length of almost 67 feet (10 meters), these enormous reptiles had huge mouths, pointed teeth, and quick swimming abilities. Their main source of food was fish and other invertebrates.

Unveiling well-preserved fossils

The first fossils of this species were discovered by Chinese geologists in the 1960s while researching in the vicinity of Mt. Qomolangma. The fossils rose from the ocean floor as a result of tectonic plate clashes. 

The recent finding was made earlier this year by an expedition team of researchers from the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Paleoanthropology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The fossils discovered this time had remarkably well-preserved vertebrae and ribs, which is unusual compared to other discoveries.

According to Wang Wei, an associate research fellow at the institute, the size of the freshly discovered vertebrae cross-sections is equivalent to that of a baseball cap, in contrast to the coin-sized cross-section of a human vertebra, emphasizing the significance of the discovery. 

What caused the Himalayasaurus to grow to such a huge size, as well as its habits and relationship to its environment at the time, have recently captured the attention of researchers. These questions will guide future investigational attempts.

Unveiling the plateau's evolutionary history

The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is a vast laboratory for studying the evolution of life, and researchers are working to create the most accurate timeline of the last 200 million years of life in the area. The plateau, according to Deng Tao, director of the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Paleoanthropology, has filled in knowledge gaps and offered essential scientific data. 

Paleontologists have been able to thoroughly investigate the plateau's substantial contribution to influencing biodiversity evolution during the Cenozoic Era because of a succession of recent discoveries made there over the past ten years.

Researchers want to learn more about this extinct deep-sea predator after removing the fossilized Himalayasaurus from the surrounding rocks and examining it under a microscope and with computed tomography (CT) images.

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