The Leedshichthys was a huge fish, probably the biggest fish ever to swim the seas! Its fossilized bones were discovered in England in 1889 by a fossil collector, Alfred Leeds. The full scientific name, Leedsichthys Problematicus, is a mixture of Latin and Greek.
- Leedsichthys means Leeds’ Fish – the Greek word for fish is Ichthys.
- Problematicus is Latin for Problematic, which means Posing a Problem.
So, Leedsichthys Problematicus is Alfred Leeds’ Problem-Causing Fish. It was baffling to scientists to imagine how a fish could be so big! I suppose Leedsichthys posed another problem to Alfred Leeds, namely:
- Where on earth am I going to keep all these huge bones???
How Big Was Leedsichthys?
Because nobody has ever found a complete Leedsichthys skeleton, it’s not clear how big, exactly, Leedsichthys Problematicus grew. Modern estimates put it at 50 to 75 feet long (16 to 22 metres), making it the biggest fish ever – bigger than the Whale Shark or the Megalodon ! Not everyone agrees, however. Some scientists argue that Leedsichthys “only” grew to a length of nine metres (27 feet). That’s still longer than two cars, and 50% longer than the Great White sharks, made famous by Steven Spielberg’s Jaws movies.
Leedsichthys was not a shark, but a kind of bony fish. It had bones, like most other fish. Sharks have cartilage instead. Although it was the the largest fish , it was not the largest vertebrate – that honor goes to the Blue Whale.
What Did Leedsichthys Eat?
Leedsichthys had 40000 teeth. It would not have been fun to be a Leedsichthys dentist! But despite this, and its enormous size, Leedsichthys would have been harmless. Like the Whale Shark and the Blue Whale, Leedsichthys most likely lived on plankton. It would swim near the surface of the sea, drinking huge gulps of water, and filter out the plankton with two bony plates at the back of its throat. If it were alive today, it would be the highlight of a Scuba diver’s career to swim with one!
Because Leeds’ Problematic Fish is only known from fossils, people can’t be sure exactly what it looked like. The picture here (due to Bogdanov) shows one artist’s idea. It shows a frightened Leedsichthys being attacked by another extinct creature, a reptile called a Liopleurodon. You can find a larger version here .