Saturday, 14 September 2013

Ancient 'Sea Monster' Swam Like a Shark

A massive marine lizard may have swum like a shark, new research suggests.

The top predators of the oceans during the late Cretaceous Era, mosasaurs, had skeletons that resembled lizards, but streamlined bodies and tail fins that resembled sharks, according to a study published today (Sept. 10) in the journal Nature Communications.

The findings suggest creatures relied on just a few types of bodies to swim quickly and easily through the deep oceans, and they evolved to have such body features because they're the most efficient from a physics perspective, said study co-author Johan Lindgren, a paleontologist at Lund University in Sweden.

Ancient sea lizards
Around 98 million years ago, sea levels were vastly higher than they are today, leaving many shallow pools — which would today be dips in the land — for creatures to inhabit. Land-dwelling lizards called mosasaurs soon expanded into these niches.

The massive lizards, which could grow to 49 feet (15 meters) long, gradually evolved more adaptations to the deep oceans and became the top predators, similar to killer whales today, Lindgren said. Mosasaurs disappeared about 66 million years ago, in the extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs.

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