Scientists Discover Fossil of Large Marine Reptile With Both Head and Body in Rare Find

 The first elasmosaur—an extinct long-necked sea reptile—to be unearthed in Australia by amateur palaeontologists with its head still attached to its body. The specimen was discovered by palaeontologists from the Queensland Museum Network and is thought to be a young mammal from around 100 million years ago.

Espen Knutsen, senior curator of palaeontology at the Museum of Tropical Queensland, says in a statement, "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." "A body and a head together have never been discovered, and this may hold the key to further research in this area."

According to Joe Hinchliffe for the Guardian, Cassandra Prince, one of the so-called "Rock Chicks," discovered the bones while investigating her ranch in western Queensland.

According to Prince, "I'm like, nah, you know, this is not real." And after that, I suddenly glance up and think, "Holy crap, I think there's a skull staring up at me."

Little Prince was the moniker given to the animal in her honour.

Elasmosaurs were a type of marine reptile known as a plesiosaur, which lived alongside dinosaurs hundreds of millions of years ago while swimming in the ocean. What is currently desert country in Queensland, Australia, was formerly covered by a large, shallow sea between 145.5 and 65.5 million years ago. Plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs, among other marine reptiles, called this sea home.

Elasmosaurs were "such weird animals," says Christina Chiotakis, a palaeontological research assistant at the Queensland Museum, to Rachael Merritt of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. They had long necks, flippers, a little tail, and a big body (ABC). Although Little Prince was smaller, measuring just approximately 20 feet, their bodies could extend to a length of roughly 43 feet.

According to Kathleen Magramo for CNN, when these animals perished, their carcasses inflated with gas and ascended to the ocean's surface where scavengers would consume them, frequently separating their heads from their bodies. Their lengthy necks made it improbable that the two pieces would drop to the same position even after the gas dissipated, according to the Guardian.


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