An extremely rare find in Australia may be the key to learning more about the sea monsters that roamed the Earth hundreds of millions of years ago.
Paleontologists have discovered the first confirmed head and carcass of a 100-million-year-old prehistoric marine reptile known as Ilasmosaurus, the Queensland Museum said in a December 6 press release.
During the Cretaceous period, the northeastern region of Australia, now Queensland, was a shallow sea, according to the researchers. For this reason, fossils and remains of marine animals are often found in the area.
Paleontologists said that elasmosauria were part of a group of long-necked reptiles called plesiosaurs. Hundreds of millions of years ago, these creatures coexisted with dinosaurs.
Although fossil finds are common in Queensland, this one marks the first time that the head and body of an Elasmosaurus have been found together. Usually, because of the specimen’s long neck, the heads and bodies separate, according to the press release.
CNN reports that three amateur paleontologists, known as the “Rock Chicks,” originally discovered the megalodon fossil. Cynthia Prince, her sister and a friend were discovered at a cattle station in western Queensland in August.
CNN reported that Elasmusaurus was 19 feet long.
Now, a group of researchers with the Queensland Museum Network have collected and transferred the creature to Tropical Queensland Museum for further inspection.
“The Rosetta Stone of Marine Paleontology”
Experts hail the discovery as a breakthrough that could be crucial to learning more about the prehistoric world.
Queensland Museum said the find was “described as a Rosetta stone for marine paleontology” in a Facebook post on December 6.
The discovery will allow experts to explore new aspects of the time period, said Espen Knutzer, chief scientist and curator of paleontology at the Queensland Museum Network – who led the group of researchers to collect the fossils.
“It will tell us a lot about taxonomy or species diversity,” he said in a video. “It will also teach us about the ecology of these things…. what kind of food this animal was eating and how it was feeding.”
Plesiosaurs grew up to 43 feet long with small triangular heads and long necks that could extend up to half the body, according to National Geographic.
The museum said the remains will now undergo several analytical methodologies to learn more, noting that they “may hold the key to unraveling the diversity and evolution of marine reptiles in Cretaceous Australia.”
This story was originally published Dec. 7, 2022, 12:04 p.m.
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