Skip to content

A Sea Giant

Scientists say an animal that lived millions of years ago was as long as three school buses!

An animal with a fin, flippers, sharp teeth, and a shark-like tail swims.

© Planetfelicity/

Based on fossils they have found, this is what scientists think a giant ichthyosaur looked like.

Blue whales are huge. These giants of the sea are known to reach lengths of 98 feet (about 30 meters). One blue whale can weigh about as much as 30 elephants! But are blue whales the largest animals ever? Maybe not. Scientists say that an ichthyosaur that lived about 200 million years ago might have been even bigger.

Ichthyosaurs were a group of reptiles that lived in the sea between 250 million years ago and about 65 million years ago. They were meat-eaters, so they would have hunted other animals in the sea. Although ichthyosaurs are extinct (no longer around), they’re related to today’s lizards and snakes. Scientists have found a lot of fossils of ichthyosaurs. Many of these fossils show that the animals had fins, long jawbones, and many sharp teeth. 

There were different types of ichthyosaurs. Scientists have long known that some of them were large—but they didn’t know how large they could be. Recently, scientists studied a fossil that they think was once part of an ichthyosaur. Based on the size of the fossil, they think this ichthyosaur may have been up to 115 feet (35 meters) long. That’s as long as three school buses lined up front to back! 

And it’s a lot longer than the blue whale!

A blue whale and an ichthyosaur swim above a school building with three buses parked in front.

© Igor Zakharevich, Planetfelicity, Nerthuz, 3drenderings/, © zozulinskyi/; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

This illustration shows how large the ichthyosaur was compared to school buses. The ichthyosaur is shown at the top, with the blue whale underneath.


Happy Lunar New Year!

Two smiling girls hold red envelopes and artwork in front of Chinese decorations.

 © Gins Wang—iStock/Getty Images Plus

Lunar New Year, a major holiday in China and around the world, begins on January 22, 2023. This annual holiday takes place on the day of the year’s first new moon—sometime in late January or February. 

Lunar New Year is celebrated over the course of 15 days. Celebrations take place in several countries. The best known is Chinese New Year. 

Lunar New Year is an opportunity for a fresh start. People often clean their homes before the new year to remove any bad luck from the previous year. They also decorate their homes in red, which is said to ward off bad luck. 

The holiday is also a celebration. Families get together for a feast, and children receive red envelopes filled with money. 

In the traditional lunar calendar, each year is represented by an animal. 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit.

In the lunar calendar, each year is represented by one of 12 animals. Use the wheel to see which animal represents the year you were born.

Fun Fact Icon

Fun Fact

A crocodile lies in mud with its mouth open as a talk bubble says I’m still growing.

© Ken Griffiths—iStock/Getty Images Plus; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Ichthyosaurs were marine reptiles, meaning they lived in the sea. Today the world’s largest marine reptile is the saltwater crocodile. Saltwater crocodiles can reach about 23 feet (7 meters) in length.

Whale, I’ll Have Some More!

© BlackBoxGuild—Creatas Video+/Getty Images Plus

That’s a pretty big whale!

It’s hard to imagine just how big a blue whale can be. Think of two school buses parked front to back. That’s longer than some houses! And that’s how long a blue whale is. 

Why are blue whales so huge? Well, their bodies are built to take in a lot of food! Scientists say that early whales ate tiny living things called plankton. But as whales evolved, some of them developed a new way to eat called “lunge feeding.” In lunge feeding, a whale opens its giant mouth and takes in a whole lot of water, along with anything that’s swimming in that water. The water comes out of the whale’s throat until only the prey is left inside the whale’s body. 

Lunge feeding is sort of like putting a big strainer into a pot of chicken noodle soup and then letting all the liquid out until there’s only chicken and noodles left in the strainer. Blue whales eat krill, which are similar to shrimp. Krill are tiny, compared to the blue whales that eat them. So lunge feeding is a great way for a big animal to get a big helping of food!

Feeling Blue!

A blue whale swims in the ocean.

© eco2drew—iStock/Getty Images Plus

Did you know that blue whales need to come to the surface of the water to breathe? It’s true! Want to learn more about blue whales? Check out Britannica School!

Word of the Day Icon

Word of the Day


Part of speech:



: very large or great

Definitions provided by
Merriam-Webster Logo
Game Icon


See how many words you can find.


In Case You Missed It

Bernice King is the daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr. Find out how she is continuing her father’s work.


Jonathan the tortoise just celebrated his 190th birthday!


You won’t believe how many ants there are in the world!


The Earthshot Prize is given to people and companies that are coming up with ways to save Planet Earth.