Scientists have discovered a long-necked sea reptile with fangs that probably preyed on fish and squid in a shallow sea in present-day southeast China more than 230 million years ago. The creature's relatively stiff, 1.7-meter-long neck (approximately five and a half feet) was almost twice as long as its trunk which measured less than one meter in length. These findings appear as a "Brevia" article in the 24 September, 2004 issue of the journal Science published by AAAS the nonprofit science society.
The creature is the first report of a fully marine member of a diverse reptile group called the protorosaurs which are characterized by their long necks and elongated neck vertebrae. Comparison of this new creature to the famous long-necked reptiles and a fellow protorosaur from Europe and the Middle East called Tanystropheus offers new insights into protorosaur hunting strategies as well as their evolution and diversity during the Triassic Period.
The new creature's specialized neck ribs may have helped the aquatic reptile hunt. The sea predator's hunting strategies, as proposed by the authors, may cause others to revisit conclusions about how Tanystropheus and other protorosaurs used their necks during the hunt, said coauthor Olivier Rieppel from the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois.
Author Chun Li from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, China discovered the reptile in two phases. Li named the creature Dinocephalosaurus orientalis, meaning "terrible headed lizard from the Orient," after he discovered the 23.5-centimeter-long skull (about 9 inches) in autumn of 2002 in the Guanling Formation in China's Guizhou Province. Three fang teeth in the upper jaw from this skull survived: front to bac
Contact: Jessica Lawrence-Hurt
American Association for the Advancement of Science