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Scientist Unearths Giant Water Lizard Fossil in Hungary

Science & Tech  (tags: science, ancient, research, scientists, investigation, discovery, paleontology, dinosaurs, lizards )

- 1943 days ago -
It grew up to six metres long and its toothy mouth and crocodile-like body was the terror of ancient rivers and shorelines many millions of years ago.

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Michael O (176)
Sunday December 23, 2012, 8:00 pm
Just don't call it a dinosaur. "Mosasaurs are not dinosaurs," said University of Alberta biologist Michael Caldwell, the discoverer of a new type of the long-extinct marine lizard in a bauxite mine in Hungary.

Mosasaurs, unlike dinosaurs, were true lizards, meaning they were able to dislocate their jaw at will and swallow anything they could get their mouths around. This, it turns out, is what makes Caldwell's mosa-saur - called Pannoniasaurus - so interesting.

Most mosasaurs were giant undersea predators, some growing up to 16 metres long, which breathed air but were full-time, fearsome sea creatures complete with paddle-like limbs similar to those of a whale. They lived around the same time as the dinosaurs and have been called the T. Rex of the sea.

"They were much bigger than T. Rex," said Caldwell, an expert in mosasaurs. "They really were sea monsters."

Pannoniasaurus, however, wasn't. About 84-million-years old, it is the first mosasaur ever found that lived in freshwater and retained the long, skinny legs of a land-based lizard. Judging by the shape of its skull and the abundance and type of its teeth, it probably hunted much like a modern crocodile, lurking just under the surface of the water to suddenly pounce on fish, or frog, or anything that moved.

But even though Pannonia-saurus didn't have the marine lifestyle or the seal-like flippers of its seagoing cousins, it still shared with them one essential mosasaurian characteristic - that little bone at the back of its skull that allowed its jaws to gape so impressively.

"This is kind of new stuff for us in the mosasaur world," said Caldwell. "Up until about five to 10 years ago, we treated the group as though it had a common ancestor with paddle-like limbs. We're beginning to recognize that the story is remarkably more complex than that.

"Mosasaurness is really about the skull and about habits, as opposed to everything but the head being focused on swimming adaptations."

The bones Caldwell and his co-authors write about in a paper published Wednesday come from a wide variety of individuals of different ages and sizes, so it's unlikely they came from a single mosasaur that somehow found its way up an ancient river. But the team still lacks a complete skeleton, so drawings of what the creature may have looked like remain speculative.

Arthur S (88)
Sunday December 23, 2012, 8:37 pm
Goodness, that is one strange looking creature, I am so happy I haven't seen it! Nor do I want to. Thank you Michael, but reading the news at site Gads I hope I don't wake up in a dream about swimming. Thanks for this. Those older creatures creep me out, probably what future generations around would say about Polar Bears? Who would of thought?!?

Roger G (154)
Sunday December 23, 2012, 9:39 pm
noted, thanks !

Rebecca S (61)
Sunday December 23, 2012, 10:14 pm
Wow! Very cool. Thanks for this. It's neat to find out about ancient animals that one roamed this planet!

Past Member (0)
Monday December 24, 2012, 12:51 am
Scary beastie. Thanks for this.

Teresa W (782)
Monday December 24, 2012, 4:33 am
scary :-)

Past Member (0)
Monday December 24, 2012, 6:41 am

David C (133)
Monday December 24, 2012, 6:48 am
interesting, thanks.

jan b (5)
Monday December 24, 2012, 6:58 am
In south Florida ( I can attest) I saw a bright green lizard the size of a cocker spaniel. Might be a Green Basilisk Species....I don't know.

. (0)
Monday December 24, 2012, 7:27 am

Hayley C (7)
Monday December 24, 2012, 8:21 am
Thanks, that was very interesting!!

Kay M (347)
Monday December 24, 2012, 9:27 am

Darrin Tyler (0)
Monday December 24, 2012, 11:03 am

Natalie V (27)
Monday December 24, 2012, 3:19 pm

aj E (164)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 9:17 am

James Merit (144)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 5:39 pm
Awesome, thank you for sharing!

Azmi Timur (0)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 11:26 pm
Noted thanks.

Robert Hardy (68)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 7:58 am
The diversity of life over time just amazes doesn't it?

Kerrie G (116)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 10:48 pm
Noted, thanks.

Ro H (0)
Thursday December 27, 2012, 10:20 am

Melania P (122)
Friday December 28, 2012, 6:32 pm
Thanks for posting!

Nimue Michelle Pendragon Gaze (339)
Friday December 28, 2012, 7:43 pm
Wow, this is cool! :)

Tanya W (65)
Saturday December 29, 2012, 3:27 am
Noted and very interesting thank you.

Sergio P (65)
Sunday December 30, 2012, 7:05 pm
Excellent, thank you
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