In 1764, a Dutch army lieutenant encountered something strange and unexpected in the hills of a limestone mine, next to the present-day city of Maastricht. The discovery included the giant skull of a prehistoric reptile, which was described at the time as a “large breathing fish”, something resembling a whale but with very sharp teeth. Later they called it MosasaurWhich means “Meuse lizard” as it was discovered near the Meuse River. Since then a family MosasaursAs I grew up we found all kinds of remains scattered throughout Europe, Asia, North America, South America and even Antarctica.
Mosasaurs represent a large group of Marine predators Which in many cases easily exceeded ten meters in diameter and which became original Kings of the Cretaceous Oceans For millions of years.
However, no matter how much we think we know about dinosaurs… sooner or later, a new fossil ends up surfacing that surprises paleontologists with unknown and fascinating characteristics. This is exactly what happened just a few days ago along the Aridagawa River, in Wakayama Prefecture (Japan), where a team of researchers… He discovered the almost complete remains of a new, never-before-seen species of mosasaurs.
This discovery was published in Journal of Systematic Paleontology Scientists have called it “Megapterygius wakayaminsis“, a term meaning “large-winged” reptile due to its hind flippers that happen to be unusually large, while wakayaminsis refers to the Japanese prefecture in which it was found. Since scientific names are often complex and difficult for the general public to remember, he added The researchers named the new reptile Wakayama Soryu, in reference to the new reptile. Soryuwhich is in Japanese mythology Blue water dragon.
In 2006, paleontologist Akihiro Misaki was searching for ammonite fossils on the banks of the Aridagawa River when he came across a huge black vertebra. He immediately forgot about looking for the slugs and focused on that strange piece. It turned out to be one of the most complete mosasaurus skeletons ever found, and the remains included its magnificent skull, the entire series of cervical and dorsal vertebrae with more than 40 vertebrae, paired ribs, right and left front flippers, and a left hind flipper. . Of course, carefully extracting all these pieces, properly assembling the huge puzzle, conducting a comprehensive study and providing a proper description is no easy task, and in this case, it took paleontologists nearly 17 years since Misaki found that first vertebra.
The full view of the discovered remains shows us A Powerful marine saurianfrom U.S Its size is similar to that of a great white sharkwhich had very long hind fins and A large dorsal resemblance to that of a killer whale. These qualities made this “blue dragon” a fearsome, fast and precise predator when hunting in the waters of what is now the Pacific Ocean, about 72 million years ago.
This combination of shark and orca is something almost unheard of The experts themselves realize “which”There is no modern counterpart to this type of body shapeFrom fish to penguins or sea turtles. “No animal we know of has four large flippers that it uses in conjunction with its tail fin.”
“I thought I knew mosasaurs well.” Takuya Konishi explains“But we soon learned it was something we had never seen before,” lead author of the published study.
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Konishi, Takuya, et al. “New derived mosasaurin (Squamata: Mosasaurinae) from southwestern Japan reveals unexpected postcranial diversity among aquatic pedal mosasaurs.». Journal of Systematic Paleontology (2023) DOI:10.1080/14772019.2023.2277921.
Harry Baker «The discovery of a 72-million-year-old “blue dragon” in Japan is unlike anything we've seen before, experts say» Live Sciences (2023)
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