Aussie mates discover 100 million-year-old sea dinosaur during mission to find fossils
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Featured Image Credit: Queensland Museum
A trio of mates have uncovered a 100 million-year-old dinosaur fossil in outback Queensland.
9News reported that Queensland station owner Cassandra and two of her friends, Sally and Cynthia, who consider themselves amateur palaeontologists, were on the hunt for fossils in the town of McKinlay.
And boy, did they stumble across a goldie.
For the first time in Australia, the trio discovered the remains of a plesiosaur, a marine dinosaur that existed 208.5-66 million years ago.
The fossils included the head and body of an elasmosaur, a type of plesiosaur, found in one piece that measured approximately 5-7 metres long.
Queensland Museum Network senior scientist and Curator of Palaeontology, Dr Espen Knutsen, who led the mission to excavate the fossil, revealed it would be the first time the museum would display a plesiosaur head and body.
"We were extremely excited when we saw this fossil – it is like the Rosetta Stone of marine palaeontology as it may hold the key to unravelling the diversity and evolution of long-necked plesiosaurs in Cretaceous Australia," Knutsen said as per 9 News.
"Because these plesiosaurs were two-thirds neck, often the head would be separated from the body after death, which makes it very hard to find a fossil preserving both together, so we are using CT scanning to give us an insight into these magnificent animals."
Dr Knutsen added that the skeleton is believed to be around 100 million years old and would further help scientists understand the evolution of the species, as many questions remain ‘unknown’.
Along with the skeleton, several plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs discovered on the field trip will also be sent to Townsville for further evaluation.
According to a-z animals, plesiosaurs were the largest aquatic animals to roam the ancient seas and were apex predators.
They were commonly found in European seas and around the Pacific Ocean, including Australia, North America, and Asia.
Known for their broad flat body and tiny head, the species had a neck like a giraffe and flippers similar to turtles, which helped them navigate the waters.
British vertebrate palaeontologist Darren Naish shared with Scientific American that he believes plesiosaurs would attack their prey the same way white sharks do.
He wrote: “I feel it’s plausible that these giant predators did the same thing that white sharks do: that they lurked in dark water, then rushed upwards towards prey silhouetted at the surface.”