240 Million-Year-Old Marine Predator Species With Fang-Like Teeth Uncovered in China

Brevicaudosaurus Illustration

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An illustration of Brevicaudosaurus. Credit: Illustration by Tyler Stone Bachelor’s Degree ’19, art and movie theater; https://tylerstoneart.wordpress.com

About 240 million years earlier, when reptiles ruled the ocean, a little lizard-like predator drifted near the bottom of the edges in shallow water, selecting off victim with fang-like teeth. A brief and flat tail, utilized for balance, assists recognize it as a brand-new types, according to research study released in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Paleontologists at the Chinese Academy of Scientists and Canadian Museum of Nature have actually evaluated 2 skeletons from a thin layer of limestone in 2 quarries in southwest China. They recognized the skeletons as nothosaurs, Triassic marine reptiles with a little head, fangs, flipper-like limbs, a long neck, and usually an even longer tail, most likely utilized for propulsion. However, in the brand-new types, the tail is brief and flat.

Brevicaudosaurus jiyangshanensis Skeleton

Brevicaudosaurus jiyangshanensis, gen. et sp. nov., skeletons in dorsal view. A, IVPP V 18625, holotype; B, IVPP V 26010, referred specimen. Credit: Qing-Hua Shang, Xiao-Chun Wu and Chun, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology

“Our analysis of two well-preserved skeletons reveals a reptile with a broad, pachyostotic body (denser boned) and a very short, flattened tail. A long tail can be used to flick through the water, generating thrust, but the new species we’ve identified was probably better suited to hanging out near the bottom in shallow sea, using its short, flattened tail for balance, like an underwater float, allowing it to preserve energy while searching for prey,” states Dr. Qing-Hua Shang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Beijing.

The researchers have actually called the brand-new types Brevicaudosaurus jiyangshanensis, from the Latin ‘brevi’ for ‘short,’ ‘caudo’ for ‘tail,’ and the Greek ‘sauros’ for ‘lizard.’ The most total skeleton of the 2 was discovered in Jiyangshan quarry, offering the specimen its types name. It’s simply under 60cm long.

The skeleton offers even more ideas to its way of life. The forelimbs are more highly established than the hind limbs, recommending they contributed in assisting the reptile to swim. However, the bones in the front feet are brief compared to other types, restricting the power with which it might pull through the water. Most of its bones, consisting of the vertebrae and ribs, are thick and thick, additional adding to the stocky, stout look of the reptile, and restricting its capability to swim rapidly however increasing stability undersea.

Brevicaudosaurus jiyangshanensis Skull

Brevicaudosaurus jiyangshanensis, gen. et sp. nov., IVPP V 18625, photos and lays out of the skull and the mandible in dorsal view. A, B, IVPP V 18625, holotype, in dorsal view; C, D, IVPP V 26010, referred specimen, snout part of the skull. Zigzag lines suggest damaged locations. Abbreviations: art, articular; bo, basioccipital; cqp, cranio-quadrate passage; d, dentary; ec, ectopterygoid; eo, exoccipital; f, frontal; j, jugal; m, maxilla; n, nasal; op, opisthotic; or, orbit; p, parietal; pf, prefrontal; pl, palatine; pm, premaxilla; po, postorbital; pof, postfrontal; pt, pterygoid; q, quadrate; qj, quadratojugal; rap, retroarticular procedure; sa, surangular; so, supraoccipital; sq, squamosal; st, stapes. Credit: Qing-Hua Shang, Xiao-Chun Wu and Chun, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology

However, thick, high-mass bones serve as ballast. What the reptile lost in speed, it got in stability. Dense bones, called pachyostosis, might have made it neutrally resilient in shallow water. Together with the flat tail, this would have assisted the predator to drift stationary undersea, needing little energy to remain horizontal. Neutral buoyancy must likewise have actually allowed it to stroll on the seabed looking for slow-moving victim.

Highly thick ribs might likewise recommend the reptile had big lungs. As recommended by the absence of firm assistance of the body weight, nothosaurs were oceanic nut they required to come to the water surface area for oxygen. They have nostrils on the snout through which they breathed. Large lungs would have increased the time the types might invest under water.

The brand-new types includes a bar-shaped bone in the center ear called the stapes, utilized for sound transmission. The stapes was usually lost in other nothosaurs or marine reptiles throughout conservation. Scientists had actually anticipated that if a stapes was discovered in a nothosaur, it would be thin and slim like in other types of this branch of the reptilian ancestral tree. However, in B. jiyangshanensis it is thick and extend, recommending it had great hearing undersea.

“Perhaps this small, slow-swimming marine reptile had to be vigilant for large predators as it floated in the shallows, as well as being a predator itself,” states co-author Dr. Xiao-Chun Wu from the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Reference: 28 October 2020, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2020.1789651

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