The project began in Glasgow, with a review of the remains of the giant Jurassic fish Leedsichthys, in conjunction with the excavation of a new specimen of this creature in Peterborough.
Scientists viewed Leedsichthys as an isolated example of a giant filter feeder in the oceans during the age of dinosaurs.
But there was a gap in the fossil record between it and the first appearance of modern filter-feeders, some 100 million years later.
Dr Jeff Liston, from Glasgow University, ran the excavation in Peterborough and found the new specimen to be an anomaly.
“The breakthrough came when we discovered additional fossils, similar to Leedsichthys, but from much younger rocks,” he said.