The mystery of the tyrannosaurus, the “Chinese Water Dragon,” has finally been completed.

Drawing dinosaurs in life.Image by Speakman et al

“The head is the least crazy thing about this animal,” says paleontologist Stefan Spykmann of the University of Stuttgart, lead author of the study published today in the journal. Earth and Environmental Sciences Shown from the Royal Society of Edinburgh. The six-meter-long animal consists mainly of a meter-long neck, with at least 32 vertebrae. “Five times more than we have!”

Various theories have spread in recent years about the evolutionary benefit of the bundles of ribs surrounding the cervical vertebrae. Scientific speculation began in 2002, when Chinese paleontologists discovered the “ghostly” skull of an unknown aquatic reptile. Become the owner Eastern dinosaurs Baptized, or “the terrible chief reptile of the East.”

Suction canopy

After a more complete discovery, scientists initially thought that the long, thin ribs around the neck unfolded like an umbrella to swallow fish. Now that scientists have a few more complete specimens, a new theory is gaining popularity: The ribs served not as a “suction umbrella,” but rather to keep the reptile’s neck as rigid as possible while it swam along the shores of the Tethys River. Ocean .

Fish have a sensitive organ extending over their entire body, through which they detect pressure differences in the water: the “lateral line”. The larger the size of the approaching fighter, the faster the “alarm” will sound. This is why predatory fish such as pike are elongated. That’s why Dinocephalosaurus’s head was as far away from its torso as possible, measuring only eight inches across. Speakman: Coastal waters are usually cloudy, and the shallow seas in which this reptile hunts for fish are likely as well. So you don’t feel and see such a little head coming until it’s too late. Thin ribs held the long neck in place as the beast broke.

Fossil

Chinese Water Dragon fossil.Image by Speakman et al

Bite swallow bite

The dangerous teeth of the Water Dragon look very similar to the teeth of a spear. This swallowed bite is sometimes called a “fish trap.” You cannot chew them, but the prey cannot escape the mouth and is swallowed whole. Three intact fish were found in the stomach of the best preserved specimen.

The largest extinction event in the history of this planet occurred at the border between the Permian and Triassic geological periods, about 252 million years ago. Subsequently, space is created for evolved species to fill ecological niches. Speakman: “This is also a typical strange animal from the Triassic period.”

Gilly Romer, a retired professor of paleontology and vertebrate specialist, suspects that this strange creature evolved into a type of giant sea snake: “This huge amount of vertebrae, which also has dozens of them, is exactly what you see in snakes.”

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Megan Vasquez

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