Established in 2020 Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Paleontologists discover a 240-million-year-old 'Chinese dragon'
Dinocephalosaurus fossil. Image courtesy: Nicholas C. Fraser, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing.

STUTTGART.- An international team of scientists from China, the U.S. and Europe has studied new fossils of the marine reptile Dinocephalosaurus orientalis. This research has made it possible to fully describe the bizarre, very impressive animal for the first time.

Dinocephalosaurus orientalis had an unusually long neck and reminded the researchers of the snake-like representation of dragons in Chinese mythology. The research findings on Dinocephalosaurus orientalis have now been published in the journal Earth and Environmental Science: Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh—just in time for the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Dragon.

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

"The discovery of the additional fossils allows us to see this remarkable long-necked animal in its entirety for the first time. It is reminiscent of the long, snake-like, mythical Chinese dragon. We are sure that Dinocephalosaurus orientalis will capture the imagination around the world because of its striking appearance," said Dr. Nick Fraser of the National Museum of Scotland, one of the authors of the study.

With 32 separate cervical vertebrae, Dinocephalosaurus orientalis did indeed have an exceptionally long neck. This suggests a comparison with Tanystropheus hydroides. Tanystropheus was found in both Europe and China during the Middle Triassic period. Both reptiles were of similar size and share several features of the skull, including a fish cage-like dentition.

"Dinocephalosaurus is unique in that it has many more vertebrae in both its neck and trunk than Tanystropheus. Dinocephalosaurus was viviparous (meaning it gave birth to live young rather than laying eggs) and obviously very well adapted to an oceanic lifestyle, as the fin limbs and the excellently preserved fish in its stomach area show," says Dr. Stephan Spiekman, specialist on long-necked marine reptiles at the State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart.

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

"This was an international effort. In collaboration with colleagues from the United States of America and Europe, we used newly discovered specimens to expand our previous knowledge of Dinocephalosaurus. Among all the extraordinary Triassic finds we have made in Guizhou Province, this marine reptile probably stands out as the most remarkable," said Dr. Li Chun, author of the study and curator at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing.

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

Today's News

February 24, 2024

Paleontologists discover a 240-million-year-old 'Chinese dragon'

UChicago scientists invent ultra-thin, minimally-invasive pacemaker controlled by light

Scientists closer to finding quantum gravity theory after measuring gravity on microscopic level

Neanderthals' usage of complex adhesives reveals higher cognitive abilities, scientists discover

Electrons become fractions of themselves in graphene, study finds

Scientists discover exotic quantum interference effect in a topological insulator device

Neurobiology: Examining how bats distinguish different sounds

Physicists discover a quantum state with a new type of emergent particles: Six-flux composite fermions

Astronomers find first strong evidence of neutron star remnant of exploding star

Killer instinct drove evolution of mammals' predatory ancestors, scientists suggest

Bio-inspired neuroprosthetics: sending signals the brain can understand

Snakes' rapid evolution might be the secret of their success

New tool for assessing diarrhea-related dehydration is built for global deployment

How chronic stress spreads cancer

Super strong magnetic fields leave imprint on nuclear matter

Chemical labeling method provides new approach for recording cellular activities

Study shows orchid family emerged in northern hemisphere and thrived alongside dinosaurs for 20 million years

Cracking the code of neurodegeneration: New model identifies potential therapeutic target

Researchers harness 2D magnetic materials for energy-efficient computing

Amorphous solar cells with FIDO technology are more efficient, stable and lightweight

Graphene research: Numerous products, no acute dangers

Experiment paves the way for new set of antimatter studies by laser-cooling positronium

Astronomers observe the effect of dark matter on the evolution of the galaxies

Protein integral to sperm development and male fertility identified

Redefining Identity Verification Technology in 2024


Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the ResearchNews newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful