A recent study has found evidence pointing to the possible existence, at one time, of the famous Loch Ness monster.
Scientists from the University of Bath and the University of Portsmouth in the UK, as well as Hassan II University in Morocco, published a study last week in the journal Cretaceous Research on the discovery of small plesiosaurs in a 100 million year old river. system, which is now part of the Sahara Desert.
According to the study, plesiosaurs were long-necked marine reptiles with small heads and four long fins that existed during the dinosaur era. They also served as inspiration for the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland.
While previously believed to be marine animals, the study suggests that plesiosaurs may have lived in fresh water.
“We don’t really know why plesiosaurs are in fresh water,” Nick Longrich, a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Bath’s Milner Center for Evolution, said in a press release.
“It’s a bit controversial, but who’s to say that because we paleontologists have always called them ‘marine reptiles,’ they had to live in the sea? Many marine lineages invaded fresh water.”
As for what this means for the Loch Ness Monster’s existence, researchers say it’s “plausible” the creature once existed.
However, they say the fossil record also suggests that the last plesiosaurs died at the same time as the dinosaurs, 66 million years ago.
The fossils mentioned in the study include adult bones and teeth three meters long and a 1.5 meter baby arm bone.
“It’s scrappy stuff, but isolated bones tell us a lot about ancient ecosystems and the animals that were there. They’re so much more common than skeletons, they give you more information to work with,” said said Longrich.
“The bones and teeth were found scattered and in different localities, not in skeletal form. So each bone and each tooth is a different animal. We have over a dozen animals in this collection.”
The researchers say the animals may have regularly lived and fed in fresh water, possibly spending their entire lives there, like today’s river dolphins.
They say it’s also possible that plesiosaurs could have tolerated both fresh and salt water in much the same way as modern whales, such as belugas.
Scientists say the teeth also offer additional clues about the animal.
Not only were the teeth lost while the creature was alive, but they show significant wear, similar to the large aquatic dinosaur Spinosaurus found in the same ancient riverbeds.
The heavy wear, the researchers say, implies that the plesiosaurs ate the same armored fish in the river as Spinosaurus, meaning they spent a lot of time there.
“What amazes me is that the ancient Moroccan river contained so many carnivores all living side by side,” said study co-author David Martill, professor of paleobiology at the University of Portsmouth. , in the press release.
“It was not a place to go swimming.”
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