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Sea Monster Discovered

Posted by Richard Conniff on January 28, 2013

Tyrannoneustus lythrodectikos

Sorry, to run this back to back with that alarming photo of the leopard seal about to sink its teeth into a penguin.  Happily for us, though, this new monster is a fossil, discovered in a Scottish museum–a reminder of the riches such natural history museums still contain.  Here’s The Guardian’s account:

A creature resembling a hybrid dolphin and crocodile has been identified by scientists examining fossil remains discovered more than a century ago.

The new species, named Tyrannoneustes lythrodectikos, was a marine “super-predator” that lived 163 million years ago. It belonged to a group of ancient crocodiles with dolphin-like features.

An amateur fossil hunter found the reptile’s partial skeleton in a clay pit near Peterborough in the early 1900s. Experts have only now been able to confirm the identity of the remains, housed at the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow.

The animal had pointed, serrated teeth and a large gaping jaw suited to feeding on large-bodied prey. It represents a transitional form between marine crocodiles that fed on small prey and their supersized relatives.

Dr Mark Young, from the University of Edinburgh, said: “It is satisfying to be able to classify a specimen that has been unexamined for more than 100 years, and doubly so to find that this discovery improves our understanding of the evolution of marine reptiles.”

Dr Neil Clark, palaeontology curator at the Hunterian, said: “Little research has been done on this specimen since it was first listed in 1919. It is comforting to know that new species can still be found in museums as new research is carried out on old collections.

“It is not just the new species that are important, but an increase in our understanding of how life evolved and the variety of life forms that existed 163 million years ago in the warm Jurassic seas around what is now Britain.”

 

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