A new mosasaur species discovered in Hungary is the first known example of this group of scaled reptiles to have lived in freshwater river environments similar to modern freshwater dolphins, according to research published December 19 in the open-access journal PLOS ONEby Laszlo Makadi from the Hungarian Natural History Museum, Hungary and colleagues from the University of Alberta, Canada and MTA-ELTE Lendület Dinosaur Research Group, Hungary.
The species lived about 84 million years ago, the largest specimens reached about 20 feet in length, and belongs to a family called ‘mosasaurs’, conventionally thought of as gigantic finned marine lizards, similar and perhaps even related to present day monitor lizards. The researchers discovered several fossils of the new species, ranging from small juveniles to large adults that suggest that this species had limbs like a terrestrial lizard, a flattened, crocodile-like skull, and a tail unlike other known members of the mosasaur family.
The fossils were recovered from an open-pit mine in the Bakony Hills of Western Hungary, which were once flood-plains. According to the study, this is the first known mosasaur that lived in freshwater, and only the second specimen of a mosasaur to have been found in rocks that were not once deposited in the ocean. Makadi says, "The evidence we provide here makes it clear that similar to some lineages of cetaceans, mosasaurs quickly adapted to a variety of aquatic environments, with some groups re- invading available niches in freshwater habitats. The size of Pannoniasaurus makes it the largest known predator in the waters of this paleo-environment."
Even in the modern world, scaly reptiles in the aquatic world are extremely rare. Only a few species live in the water, and even fewer, like marine iguanas and sea kraits, live in the oceans. The new species described here probably adapted to freshwater environments similarly to river dolphins, such as those now inhabiting the Amazon, Ganges and Yangtze rivers.
Makadi L, Caldwell MW, Osi A (2012) The First Freshwater Mosasauroid (Upper Cretaceous, Hungary) and a New Clade of Basal Mosasauroids. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51781. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051781
Public Library of Science: http://www.plos.org
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Governments fund research into diseases that are popular with voters. But what about rare diseases, or the ones that aren't popular, that nonetheless affect thousands of lives?
Researchers suggest some standard methods to reduce the spread of MRSA infections need to be re-evaluated as they may do more harm than good.
In California, people with Alzheimer's will be given transfusions of young blood to see if improves their cognition – there's good reason to hope it might
A study of 40 archaeological sites in Europe suggests the Neanderthals died out 40,000 years ago, much earlier than thought, and that humans played a role
The long-term rise in IQ scores might be coming to a halt, but we should focus on improving social conditions rather than worrying about idiocracy
Because ants are social creatures, the fungus must wait and attack outside the colony
It could help point to the possibilities of life on other planets
Research suggests that goalkeepers can influence the accuracy of penalty shots by assuming a posture that mimics a classic optical illusion.
Thousands log on to transcribe handwritten catalogue dating back to 18th century and put 30,000 ancient objects online
When Kim Goodsell discovered that she had two extremely rare genetic diseases, she taught herself genetics to help