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Let's say due to time travel shenanigans, a millionaire has acquired an ichthyosaur:

enter image description here

What must our millionaire do to keep his new pet long term? Could it just eat modern fish? Would the salinity be a problem? Not only do I need to know what he would have to do but how anyone would know this.

The species is Acamptonectes, a cretaceous icthyosaur 10 feet long. It had large eyes for depth diving but its teeth suggest a generalist diet of soft prey like squid and fish.

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    $\begingroup$ Most likely he'd satisfy with a pool a size of a soccer field, about sveral meters deep. With it, scientists might alter local salinity basing on the ichthyosaurus' reaction, and if he'll be best in fresh water, he could be released into a lake and fed river fish, if saltwater, there is a number of seas with varied salinity to find the one best fitting. And yes I assume he'd be fine with modern fish, however he might get infected with modern germ and die of sickness pretty fast. $\endgroup$
    – Vesper
    Oct 27, 2022 at 9:27
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    $\begingroup$ There seems to evidence that ocean salinity changed over time. I cannot tell you if this would bother your Loch Ness monster. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Oct 27, 2022 at 12:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Joe Smith All of them. At lest all the ones which are harmful and capable of infecting sea reptiles. After many millions of years of bacterial and viral evolution, the Icthyosaur would not have any natural resistance to those modern germs. $\endgroup$ Oct 27, 2022 at 17:20
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    $\begingroup$ If all he's got to go on is the paleontological record, he should probably accept that his first ichthyosaurs are probably going to die of something he and his experts didn't think of, keep meticulous records and do autopsies, learn from each time it happens, and prepare to get a replacement for however many times this cycle repeats. $\endgroup$
    – notovny
    Oct 27, 2022 at 17:34
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    $\begingroup$ Based on the Jurassic Park series of documentaries, the only special care needed is lots of space to roam free and lots of humans for fodder. Life will find a way. Ichthyosaurs are considered most likely to be carnivores. This diet is likely too high in fat with modern humans, but could be supplemented by a variety of leaner choices. Though clearly the documentary shows that humans are particularly relished food - a more healthy diet would limit them to occasional treats. $\endgroup$ Oct 27, 2022 at 21:30

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It has a surprisingly good chance of surviving.

As far as food and water it will be fine, fish have not changed dramatically and the ocean salinity has not changed drastically, remember salinity already varies quite a bit across the globe so like most marine vertebrates the ichthyosaur will be able to handle a range of salinities. you just have to cross your fingers and hope it will eat what you provide, not a big risk but still worth mentioning.

It may well die of disease or parasites but there is really nothing he can do about that. thankfully without other related marine reptiles the disease risk is lower, but definitely not zero. Parasites are a bigger issue, since they are less specific to a marine host. The risk is not that much higher than any rare aquarium animal however. The one big risk is eating something toxic that did not exist back then. you need to keep poisonous fish and likely plastics away from it.

You want a large area for it, ichthyosaur are fast swimmer meaning they likely need large territories. Walling off an existing bay is likely their best bet for that. failing that you want a very big marine tank.

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Ecological Survey and the Amazing Shapeshifting Ichthyosaur

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The Millionaire used a time machine to get his pet Ichthyosaur. The same millionaire hires a team of ecologists to go back through the machine to measure all the conditions needed to keep the dinosaur happy. Water temperature, salinity, dissolved minerals.

To make the perfect fish food, they catch a bunch of fish and squid, near where they found the dino, grind them up into a tasty slurry, and extract the correct nutritional profile.

enter image description here

Well that's what they said anyway. What they actually did is catch a bunch of other Ichthyosaurs, take the half-digested food from their stomachs and analyse that.

With all this data obtained, the main problem is pathogens. As we all know, the Conquistadors brought new diseases to South America (and vice-versa) that killed the natives quickly. The same will happen to your dinosaur. It has no immunity to the new pathogens, and they kill it quickly.

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Fortunately the millionaire cannot tell the difference between different Ichthyosaurs. The aquarium staff keep everything sanitized so the animal survives at least a few weeks before it gets infected.

Typically this happens after Mr Millionaire pays a visit and insists on throwing seafood cubes from his golden yacht that floats in the top of the tank, to his pet dinosaur. Pathogens from his hands get into the animal.

Fortunately Mr. Millionaire has a short attention span. After throwing cubes for an half hour he loses interest and gets on the jet to one of his other dozen homes around the world.

Once he closes the front door, the aquarium staff spring into action. They immediately drain the tank, incinerate the poor dinosaur, and sterilize the aquarium using radiation.

Then they hop back in the time machine and catch a new Ichthyosaur the same size. They refill the tank, and Mr Millionaire comes back in two months none the wiser.

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  • $\begingroup$ no immunities but there is also no closely related species alive today so its pathogen risk is surprising low. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Oct 29, 2022 at 2:02
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The millionaire won't be able to figure it out without trial and error and killing at least a few Icthyosaurs. From those trials you can make up any rules you want about behaviour, biochemistry, water conditions, etc. For all we know they won't eat eat food that isn't live or food that they don't recognize. They aren't fish, mammals, nor reptiles as we know them.

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    $\begingroup$ Well maybe there's hope ? Ichthyosaurs were air-breathing, warm-blooded animals. Keeping them in captivity would be as inhumane as keeping dolphins in captivity, but humans do have some experience with that.. and Ichthyosaur species varied from 1 to 20 metres (3 to 66 ft) in length he could try a small one first.. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Oct 28, 2022 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Goodies Perhaps, but warm-blooded air breathing does not a mammal make. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Oct 28, 2022 at 20:42
  • $\begingroup$ Animals die in captivity. They die early, when they're not well taken care of. But I really doubt if experiments would be needed. The millionaire will need to hire expert personnel for this, but it must be possible, with sufficient investment and knowledge of the food needs, to keep the Ichtosaur alive. It will be a very expensive hobby.. it might need lobster every day, or rare sea food. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Oct 28, 2022 at 21:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Goodies That sounds like trial and error to me. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Oct 28, 2022 at 21:21
  • $\begingroup$ Oh no. Huge sea turtles and even sharks can be found in zoos in Europe. The Ichtyosaur was an agressive predator, so the appropriate meat should be provided.. it will depend on the knowledge available. Of course, when this dinosaur would be teleported from its natural environment into the millionaire's swimming pool, you'd expect trial and error. And death. But if you let it time-travel into a large zoo aquarium intended for sharks.. and prepare its food properly..your Ichtyosaur could prosper, and even provide offspring, when facilitated to do so. You'd need at least 2 of course.. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Oct 28, 2022 at 21:29

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