Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Superclass Tetrapoda
Class Reptilia
Subclass Diapsida
Order Ichthyosauria
Family Cymbospondylidae
Genus Cymbospondylus
1st Species Cymbospondylus piscosus
2nd Species Cymbospondylus petrinus
3rd Species Cymbospondylus buchseri
4th Species Cymbospondylus nichollsi
Other attributes
Time Range 240-210 mya
Location Germany, Italy, United States of America
Name Meaning Boat spine
Physical Dimensions 7.9 meters long
Dietary Classification Carnivore

Cymbospondylus is a cymbospondylid ichthyosaurian reptile from the Middle Triassic of Germany, Italy, and the United States of America. It was named in 1868 by Joseph Leidy. It was one of the earliest ichthyosaurs to ever swim the Triassic seas, as well as one of the most successful.


Despite its ichthyosaurian affinities, Cymbospondylus resembled a mosasaur. It had an elongated and streamlined body, 4 flippers, a long tail with a fluke on its end, and a long, conical head with large jaws. Its body would have been covered in scaly skin.


Cymbospondylus was a predator, preying on fish, cephalopods, and smaller marine reptiles. Although its teeth were relatively small, they were still sharp, and were used to get a hold of any struggling prey.


Unlike another (recently-discovered) giant ichthyosaur, Cymbopsondylus had small teeth, which would not have been efficient for cutting into the hides of larger ichthyosaurs; instead, they would have been used to get a hold of small to midsized fish, cephalopods, and marine reptiles. However, it was a somewhat competent swimmer, as its long, eel-like tail that was used to propel itself as it swam through the water, while its 4 flippers would have been used for steering, stabilization, and slowing down. Unlike most other aquatic animals, Cymbospondylus often lived in the open ocean, only coming near the shore to catch prey found nowhere else or to breed. As well as this, like other ichthyosaurs, as well as plesiosaurs, Cymbospondylus would have gave birth to live young (pushing them out tail-first as to prevent drowning), as it was nowhere near being adapted to go on land.

In popular cultureEdit

Cymbospondylus was featured in the 1st episode of the 2003 documentary Chased by Sea Monsters, where it is featured as the apex predator of the Triassic aquatic ecosystems and mentioned as a great danger to Nigel Marven (the explorer of the prehistoric seas). Despite all this, it only eats a shed Tanystropheus tail and harmlessly circles around the diver, only biting at the cattle prod he uses to drive marine reptiles away.

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