Sunday, 20 December 2015

200-year-old fossil mystery resolved

By Helen Briggs BBC News

Scientists have reconstructed how an ancient reptile swam in the oceans at the time of the dinosaurs.

Computer simulations suggest the plesiosaur moved through the water like a penguin, using its front limbs as paddles and back limbs for steering.

The creature's swimming gait has been a mystery since bones of the first known specimen were dug out of a Dorset cliff 200 years ago.

The plesiosaur was discovered by the fossil hunter Mary Anning in 1821.

At the time even the name dinosaur had not been invented.

A scientific paper unveiling Anning's find a few years later raised the question of how the marine creature swam, given its unusual pairs of wing-like flippers.

The debate has continued until today, with a computer simulation based on a Jurassic fossil specimen providing evidence in favour of penguin-like motion.





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