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Ancient reptile with neck longer than body

Date: 10 August 2020 Tags: Biodiversity

Issue

A recent study has unveiled fresh details surrounding the Tanystropheus, a reptile that lived and had a remarkably elongated neck – longer than its body and tail combined.

 

Details

  • Tanystropheus are believed to have lived around the Monte San Giorgio basin on the Swiss-Italian border during the middle Triassic period (247-237 million years ago), and were originally mistaken to be a kind of Pterosaur – a flying reptile.

  • Other crucial aspects regarding the reptile were unknown. Questions such as whether it lived on land or water or both, or what its diet consisted of, had puzzled scientists ever since its fossil was first discovered some 150 years ago.

  • Scientists used a high-resolution computed tomography (CT scan) to reconstruct a three-dimensional (3D) prototype of the crushed skull.

  • The newly constructed prototype indicated the skull of the bigger Tanystropheus (named Tanystropheus hydroides) was structured in a way that hints it hunted underwater. 

  • Scientists after studying the smaller specimen (called Tanystropheus longobardicus) came to the conclusion that it was not a juvenile, but a fully adult creature of a different species of the Tanystropheus.

  • While the smaller animal is likely to have eaten small crustaceans and fishes, the larger one was probably hunting bigger fishes and creatures like squids.

  • Researchers also concluded that Tanystropheus was a “ram-feeder”, its long neck allowing it to approach unknowing prey and then use its fang-like teeth to directly snap a bit off its prey. However, both the species were neither fast nor efficient swimmers.

  • A similar fossil of Tanystropheus has been recently discovered in China, and scientists are trying to figure out if it is of the same species.