martedì 29 gennaio 2013

Fossil remains in museum found to be 165 million year old marine super-predator

Credit: University of Edinburgh
(—Researchers examining a fossil specimen discovered in a museum storage bin have found it to be the remains of a super-predator that lived during the Jurassic Period, around 165 million years ago.
They describe the specimen, named Tyrannoneustes lythrodectikos, in their paper published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, as looking like a cross between a modern dolphin and a shark or crocodile.    
Tyrannoneustes lythrodectikos, meaning "tyrant swimmer that bites" in Latin, was found in 1919 in a clay pit near the British town of Peterborough (the Oxford Clay Formation) by an amateur bone collector. Since that time it has resided, hidden away in Glasgow's Hunterian museum. The skeletal remains include a jawbone with serrated teeth that the researchers, from the University of Edinburgh describe as an indication that the creature was a super-predator – one that preys on animals that are as big as it is, or even bigger. The research team, led by Mark Young, says the time period during which the tyrant swimmer lived would have had it swimming in the shallow seas that covered much of Europe and England – along with other large marine predators. At the time, the area consisted of a chain of islands. They believe T. lythrodectikos would have been a very strong swimmer – it had a fluked tail and forelimbs that resembled flippers and was able to open its mouth very wide to allow for biting into large prey. It would have been both a formidable hunter and an elusive target for other larger marine animals. But if caught, would not have been difficult to eat as it lacked the bony armor of other species of the time. The Middle Jurassic period, as has been glamorized by Hollywood, was a time during which many very large animals existed, many of them predatory. Their existence, scientists say, indicates a time when there was a very healthy food chain. The team adds that the species is the oldest known super-predator, and notes that little research had been done on the skeletal remains over the near century since it was brought to the museum. They also report that no stomach contents were found, thus they can't say for sure what the animal ate. More information: The oldest known metriorhynchid super-predator: a new genus and species from the Middle Jurassic of England, with implications for serration and mandibular evolution in predacious clades, DOI:10.1080/14772019.2012.704948

 Credit: "Fossil remains in museum found to be 165 million year old marine super-predator".

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