River system dig in modern-day Morocco offers a controversial new perspective on how marine reptiles and aquatic dinosaurs co-existed.
After determining that some plesiosaurs may have inhabited freshwater, a British institution has declared the Loch Ness Monster “plausible,” according to The Telegraph.
According to Nessie supporters, the mythical creature might be a prehistoric reptile with grainy pictures and firsthand accounts suggesting that it has a long neck and tiny head comparable to a plesiosaur over the years.
Skeptics, on the other hand, claim that even if a plesiosaur lineage had persisted into modern times, the creatures would not have been able to survive in Loch Ness because they require a saltwater environment.
The discovery of a small plesiosaur in a 100-million-year-old river network now located in the Moroccan Sahara Desert suggests they may have lived in freshwater, according to a study released today.
The fossils include bones and teeth from a 9.8ft (3m) long adult, and an arm bone from a 4.9ft (1.5m) baby.
They hint that these creatures routinely lived and fed in freshwater, alongside frogs, crocodiles, turtles, fish and the aquatic dinosaur Spinosaurus.
“What amazes me is that the ancient Moroccan river contained so many carnivores all living alongside each other,” said co-author Dave Martill, professor of palaeobiology at the University of Portsmouth.
“This was no place to go for a swim.”
Plesiosaur teeth have the same heavy wear patterns as the Spinosaurus, suggesting they were eating on the same heavily-armored fish that swam in the river system on a frequent basis rather than just passing through.
Markings on the plesiosaur’s teeth suggest that they were native to the river system
Dr Nick Longrich, corresponding author on the paper, said: “We don’t really know why the plesiosaurs are in freshwater.
“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? Lots of marine lineages invaded freshwater.”
The first complete skeleton of a plesiosaur was first found in Lyme Regis, Dorset, in 1823 by Mary Anning, an English fossil hunter.
The species was dubbed “near lizard” because it was thought to be more similar to modern reptiles than the Ichthyosaurus, which had been discovered in the same rock strata just a few years earlier. It swam by flapping its fins in the water and lived from the late Triassic Period into the late Cretaceous Period.
In January 1934, Arthur Grant, a veterinary student, said he nearly struck the creature on his motorbike and likened it to a cross between a seal and plesiosaur. He drew a sketch that resembled the ancient sea creature.
The creature’s long neck and tiny head also surfaced in a photograph taken by Robert Kenneth Wilson, a gynecologist, which was published by the Daily Mail a few months later.
The image, which became known as “the surgeon’s photo,” turned out to be a hoax created by a disgruntled former Mail employee who was enraged that his father-in-law had been ridiculed in the newspaper for claiming he had found Nessie footprints. According to the University of Bath, the latest discovery revealed that the Loch Ness Monster is “on one level plausible”.
“Plesiosaurs weren’t confined to the seas, they did inhabit freshwater,” the release added, but also pointed out that the fossil record still showed that plesiosaurs had died out at the same time as the dinosaurs, 66 million years ago.