Scots sci­en­tists iden­tify an­cient sea mon­ster

The Press and Journal (Inverness) - - NEWS -

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.

She said: “I’ve put on a stone and feel it ev­ery­where.

“I’m kicking my­self but you know what, I think I needed to put on a bit of weight. I was a bit bony.” Strictly Come Danc­ing fans missed Len Good­man all over again as his spe­cial seg­ment of the show was re­named.

Len’s Lens had been a view­ers’ favourite be­fore he re­tired last year. Fans ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment on Twit­ter with the new “Dance De­brief ” on Sun­day.

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