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Fossils of humongous sea creature decapitated by dinosaur predator discovered

In the past, Earth was home to a 20-foot-long reptile, unlike the various marine reptiles we see today. These long-necked creatures existed approximately 240 million years ago but had a short-lived population due to frequent predation.

Tanystropheus, a distant relative of dinosaurs, made its first appearance during the Triassic Period, which coincided with a severe mass extinction event. This reptile thrived across the northern hemisphere for 10 million years and fed on fish and squid in a tropical lagoon during the Middle Triassic.

Scientists had long suspected that prehistoric marine reptiles with long necks were highly vulnerable to ambush attacks. Recently, fossils of Tanystropheus were discovered in Monte San Giorgio, a mountain in Switzerland, revealing that their lives were abruptly and violently ended by a powerful predator, resulting in decapitation.

A study published in Current Biology described the findings, providing the first concrete evidence of severed necks with clear bite marks on the vertebrae. Stephan Spiekman, the study’s author, explained that two tooth punctures were found precisely where the necks were broken, indicating a single, diagonal bite.

Spiekman, a vertebrate paleontologist, studied Tanystropheus specimens during his doctoral work. He suggested that the necks were bitten off in a single bite, possibly after a few preliminary bites that didn’t hit the bone. Considering the large predators present in that environment, it is plausible that a large predator was responsible for severing the necks.

Despite their vulnerability, Tanystropheus persisted with their stiff, long necks for approximately 175 million years, indicating the importance of this trait during the Triassic period.

Identifying the creature responsible for killing a 20-foot-long ambush predator poses a challenge. The diverse range of species found in Monte San Giorgio includes potential predators such as Cymbospondylus buchseri, an early and large ichthyosaur, Nothosaurus giganteus, an enormous reptile, and Helveticosaurus zollingeri, a 12-foot-long predator with powerful forelimbs, a flexible tail, and a strong, toothy snout.


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