Paleontologists discovered 240 million years old. "Chinese dragon"

Dinocephalosaurus Fossil. Credit: Nicholas C. Fraser, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing

An international team of scientists from China, the United States and Europe has studied new fossils of the marine reptile Dinocephalosaurus orientalis. This research has made it possible to fully describe the strange, highly impressive animal for the first time.

Dinocephalosaurus orientalis had an unusually long neck and reminded researchers of the serpentine representation of dragons in Chinese mythology. The results of research on Dinocephalosaurus orientalis are now in. published In the journal Earth and Environmental Science: Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh– just in time for the start of the Chinese Year of the Dragon.

In 2003, a skull and the first three cervical vertebrae of Dinocephalosaurus orientalis were exposed and examined in the Guanling Formation of Guizhou Province. Since then, many other specimens have been discovered in southwestern China, now housed at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing and the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History in Hangzhou. These discoveries have enabled researchers to virtually describe the complete skeleton of this marine. In a study conducted over a 10-year period.

“The discovery of additional fossils allows us to see this remarkable long-necked animal in its entirety for the first time. It is reminiscent of the long, serpentine, mythical Chinese dragon. We believe Dinocephalosaurus orientalis captures the imagination. will take. Around the world because of its striking appearance,” said Dr Nick Fraser of the National Museum of Scotland, one of the study’s authors.

With 32 distinct cervical vertebrae, Dinocephalosaurus orientalis had a truly unusually long neck. This suggests a comparison with Tenestrophis hydroids. Tenestrophis was found in both Europe and China during the Middle Triassic period. The two reptiles were similar in size and share several skull features, including a fish-cage-like dentition.

Paleontologists discovered 240 million years old. "Chinese dragon"

Artist Marlene Donnelly has created a lifelike illustration of Dinocephalosaurus orientalis swimming with a prehistoric fish called Saurichthys. Credit: Marlene Donnelly

“Dinocephalosaurus is unique in that it has many more vertebrae than Tanystropheus in both its neck and trunk. Dinocephalosaurus was viviparous (that is, it gave birth to young rather than laying eggs) and was obviously very adapted to a marine lifestyle. well-adapted, as fin organs. And its belly area shows the best preserved fish,” Dr. Stefan Spackmann, a long-necked marine reptile expert at the State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart. say

Despite superficial similarities, Dinocephalosaurus was not closely related to the famous Plesiosaurus, which evolved about 40 million years later and served as the inspiration for the Loch Ness Monster.

“It was one. . Together with colleagues from the United States and Europe, we used newly discovered specimens to expand our previous knowledge of Dinocephalosaurus. “Of all the unusual Triassic discoveries we’ve made in Guizhou Province, this marine reptile is probably the most remarkable,” said study author and curator Dr. Li Chun of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing. .

The scientists hope to gain more insight into the evolution of this group of animals through further investigations in the future, particularly into the exact function of the long neck in marine reptiles.

More information:
Stephan NF 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 (2024). DOI: 10.1017/S175569102400001X

Reference: Paleontologists discover 240-million-year-old ‘Chinese dragon’ (2024, February 23) Retrieved February 23, 2024, from https://phys.org/news/2024-02-paleontologists-million-year-chinese-dragon went. html

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