Fossils of a new species of a large predatory marine reptile in Russia have been discovered by scientists. The species dates back to 130 million years. It survived the last Jurassic extinction event.
Pilosaurs have a skull that measures 2 metres. They have huge teeth and really powerful jaws that makes them the top predators of oceans during the 'Age of Dinosaurs'.
The species belong to a group of Plesiosaur marine reptiles. These group of species are the most diverse and one of longest-lived aquatic four-limbed creatures. It has a strange body shape which is not seen in other marine vertebrates which posses four large flippers, stiff trunk, and long neck.
In a new study published in the journal Current Biology, researchers found a new, exceptionally well-preserved and highly unusual pliosaur from the Cretaceous of Russia (about 130 million years ago).
It was found in 2002 on bank of the Volga River in Russia.
The skull of the new species, dubbed "Luskhan itilensis", meaning the Master Spirit from the Volga river, is 1.5 metre in length, indicating a large animal.
However it has got extremely slender rostrum which resembles that of fish-eating aquatic animals such as gharials or some species of river dolphins.
"This is the most striking feature, as it suggests that pliosaurs colonised a much wider range of ecological niches than previously assumed," said Valentin Fischer, lecturer at the Universite de Liege in Belgium.
By analysing two new and comprehensive datasets that describe the anatomy and ecomorphology of plesiosaurs with cutting edge techniques, researchers revealed that several evolutionary convergences took place during the evolution of plesiosaurs, notably after an important extinction event at the end of the Jurassic (145 million years ago).
The new results suggest that pliosaurs were able to bounce back after the latest Jurassic extinction, but then faced another extinction that would wipe them off the depths of ancient oceans, forever.
(With PTI inputs)