Home Science and Nature Dinocephalosaurus was Fully Marine Reptile and Even Gave Birth at Sea, Paleontologists Say

Dinocephalosaurus was Fully Marine Reptile and Even Gave Birth at Sea, Paleontologists Say

by News7

Paleontologists from Germany, China, the United Kingdom and the United States have described in detail Dinocephalosaurus orientalis, a remarkable marine reptile from the Middle Triassic of China, on the basis of seven beautifully preserved specimens.

Restoration of Dinocephalosaurus orientalis depicted among a shoal of the large, predatory actinopterygian fish, Saurichthys. Image credit: Marlene Donnelly.

Dinocephalosaurus orientalis lived in what is now China during the Triassic period, around 240 million years old.

This aquatic reptile was up to 6 m (20 feet) in length and had an extraordinarily long neck with 32 separate vertebrae.

The animal was very similar to Tanystropheus hydroides, another strange marine reptile from the Middle Triassic of both Europe and China.

“Both reptiles were of similar size and have several features of the skull in common, including a fish-trap type of dentition,” said Dr. Nick Fraser, keeper of natural sciences at National Museums Scotland, and his colleagues.

“However, Dinocephalosaurus orientalis is unique in possessing many more vertebrae both in the neck and in the torso, giving the animal a much more snake-like appearance.”

Dinocephalosaurus orientalis. Image credit: National Museums Scotland.

Dinocephalosaurus orientalis was almost certainly a fully marine reptile and even gave birth at sea.

The exact function of its extraordinary long neck is unclear but it almost certainly aided in catching fish, which are preserved in the stomach contents of one of the specimens.

Despite superficial similarities, the reptile was not closely related to the famous long-necked plesiosaurs that only evolved around 40 million years later and which inspired the myth of the Loch Ness Monster.

“This discovery allows us to see this remarkable long-necked animal in full for the very first time,” Dr. Fraser said.

“It is yet one more example of the weird and wonderful world of the Triassic that continues to baffle paleontologists.”

“We are certain that it will capture imaginations across the globe due to its striking appearance, reminiscent of the long and snake-like, mythical Chinese Dragon.”

Dinocephalosaurus orientalis was first described in 2003, but the discovery of additional, more complete specimens has allowed the authors to depict the bizarre long-necked creature in full for the very first time.

“Among all of the extraordinary finds we have made in the Triassic of Guizhou province, Dinocephalosaurus orientalis probably stands out as the most remarkable,” said Professor Li Chun, a paleontologist at the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology

The findings were published today in the journal Earth and Environmental Science: Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.


Stephan N.F. Spiekman et al. Dinocephalosaurus orientalis Li, 2003: a remarkable marine archosauromorph from the Middle Triassic of southwestern China. Earth and Environmental Science: Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, published online February 23, 2024; doi: 10.1017/S175569102400001X

Source : Breaking Science News

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