A newly discovered Triassic lizard can float underwater to capture prey

A newly discovered Triassic lizard can float underwater to capture prey

About 240 million years ago, the Triassic predator Brevicaudosaurus jiyangshanensis escaped, approx. Motionless, at sea – and researchers found evidence in its skeleton that could explain its unusual fishing methods.

Scientists at the Chinese Academy of Scientists in Beijing and the Canadian Museum of Nature In Ottawa, two skeletons were discovered in a thin layer of limestone in two quarries in southwest China. The most complete skeleton, just under 60 cm in length, was found in a quarry in Jiangshan.

Experts have identified the 240-million-year-old remains as a previously unknown species of nothosaurs: small-headed marine reptiles with tusks, fin-like limbs, and a long neck. Typically, fossils had a longer tail, which experts believe was used for propulsion – but the newly discovered reptile had a short, flat tail.

The researchers noted that the front limbs of reptiles were more developed than their hind limbs, and they could have played a role in helping the animal swim. With her bones thick and dense – including the vertebrae and ribs – she is likely to be plump and strong in appearance.

What’s more, Experts believe that Brevicaudosaurus jiyangshanensis was not necessarily a fast swimmer, based on the evidence. However, his dense cheekbones may have given him an advantage: stability. Its thick bones with high mass would have made it float neutrally in shallow water, and with the help of its flat tail, a predator could float motionless underwater while using little energy.

Ghost hunter

Researchers also believe that this creature could have used its neutral buoyancy to pursue the sea floor in search of its next meal.

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“Our analysis of two well-preserved skeletons reveals reptiles with a broad body (dense bone) and a very short, flat tail,” said study co-author Cheng Hua Shang, a paleontologist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The current situation. “A long tail could be used to peck through the water, which creates thrust, but the new species we have identified may have been better suited to lounging near the bottom in a shallow sea, using its short, flat tail for balance, such as underwater floats, allowing it to maintain Energy while searching for prey. ”

The reptile was well suited for underwater hunting: neutral buoyancy was also supposed to help them walk on the sea floor in search of slow-moving prey. Meanwhile, the high-density ribs of the skeleton also indicate that the reptiles have large lungs, which increases the time the species can spend without surfacing.

Paleontologists found another feature that would aid Brevicaudosaurus in its underwater exploits: The creature also had thick and long substrates – rod-shaped bones in the middle ear, used to transmit sound – that could help reptiles hear below the surface.

“Perhaps this small, slow-swimming marine reptile should have alerted the large predators because they are floating in shallow water, as well as being a predator in its own right,” said co-author Xiao Chunwu, a paleontologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature. , As current situation.

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