Scots scientists identify ancient sea monster
A new species of prehistoric sea “monster” has been identified, shedding light on the origins of the distant relatives of modern crocodiles.
The new species was a 10ft-long animal that lived in the warm, shallow seas covering much of what is now Europe, scientists said.
Its powerful jaws and serrated teeth allowed it to feed on large prey, such as prehistoric squid.
Palaeontologists at the University of Edinburgh discovered the new species of marine predator by studying a damaged fossil held in the Natural History Museum’s archives for almost 150 years.
The ancient reptile, called Ieldraan melkshamensis, has been nicknamed the Melksham Monster after the town in Wiltshire, England, where it was unearthed.
Researchers said that, until now, it was thought the sub-family of prehistor- ic crocodiles to which the new species belongs originated in the Late Jurassic period, between 152million and 157million years ago.
But the latest discovery, together with re-analysis of other fossil evidence, suggests that the group arose millions of years earlier, in the Middle Jurassic spell. The new species is believed to date back 163million years.
Davide Foffa, a PhD student in the university’s School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said: “It’s not the prettiest fossil in the world, but the Melksham Monster tells us a very important story about the evolution of these ancient crocodiles and how they became the apex predators in their ecosystem.”
Dr Steve Brusatte, of the 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.” My Girl actress Michelle Keegan, 30, has said she is “kicking herself ” for putting on a stone in weight while filming abroad for months.
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