US News New prehistoric sea monster species identified

05:55  03 october  2017
05:55  03 october  2017 Source:   Sky News

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Scientists have identified a "highly unusual" new species of extinct sea -dwelling reptile in Russia. Similar in appearance to a river dolphin or gharial crocodile, the fish-eating sea beast would have had a long beak-like snout.

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An artist's impression of the Melksham Monster © PA An artist's impression of the Melksham Monster

A new prehistoric sea monster has been identified, after one of its fossils spent almost 150 years sitting in museum archives.

The marine predators were 10ft-long with strong jaws and serrated teeth that allowed it to feast on large prey, such as prehistoric squid.

The Ieldraan melkshamensis, named the Melksham Monster after the Wiltshire town where the fossil was found, once roamed the seas of Europe.

But the fossil was acquired by the Natural History Museum in 1875 and sat in its archives for almost 150 years before a closer look found it held information about the origins of the distant relatives of today's crocodiles.

New prehistoric sea monster species identified

  New prehistoric sea monster species identified A new prehistoric sea monster has been identified, after one of its fossils spent almost 150 years sitting in museum archives. The marine predators were 10ft-long with strong jaws and serrated teeth that allowed it to feast on large prey, such as prehistoric squid.The Ieldraan melkshamensis, named the Melksham Monster after the Wiltshire town where the fossil was found, once roamed the seas of Europe.

(See prehistoric sea - monster pictures.) (See picture: " New ' Sea Monster ' Species Identified .") "These [ sea reptiles] all came from land reptiles, who we're pretty sure were so-called cold-blooded, and it was probably the same when they started swimming.

Here are ten of the largest, most fearsome sea monsters ever to prowl the oceans: 10. Shastasaurus, the largest marine reptile species ever found, was a variety of ichthyosaur that could grow to over 65 feet (20m), much longer than most other predators.

It was thought that the sub-family of prehistoric crocodiles, including the new species, came from the Late Jurassic period, between 152 and 157 million years ago.

But palaeontologists at the University of Edinburgh investigated further and found it was actually much older: around 163 million years.

They used the monster's distinctive skull, lower jaw and teeth to identify it as a new species.

Mark Graham, senior fossil preparator at the Natural History Museum, explained the long and difficult process, saying the animal was "one tough old croc in life and death".

"The specimen was completely enclosed in a super-hard rock nodule with veins of calcite running through, which had formed around it during the process of fossilisation.

"This unyielding matrix had to be removed by force, using carbon steel tipped chisels and grinding wheels encrusted with industrial diamonds.

"The work took many hours over a period of weeks, and great care had to be taken to avoid damaging the skull and teeth as they became exposed."

Dr Steve Brusatte, from the university's School of GeoSciences, said: "The Melksham Monster would have been one of the top predators in the oceans of Jurassic Britain, at the same time that dinosaurs were thundering across the land."

The study is published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.

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