Scientists unravel mystery of real-life ‘sea monster’

U.S. & World

CHICAGO (CNN Newsource) — Scientists are looking to see if sea monsters were ever real.

Researchers from the Field Museum in Chicago used CT scans to digitally reconstruct the crushed fossils of the Tanystropheus.

“I’ve been studying Tanystropheus for over thirty years, so it’s extremely satisfying to see these creatures demystified,” says Olivier Rieppel, a paleontologist at the Field Museum and one of the authors of a new paper in Current Biology detailing the discovery. 

Those are reptiles that lived about 242 million years ago, just as dinosaurs were starting to emerge on land and the sea was ruled by giant reptiles.

Scientists were not sure for a long time whether the reptile lived on land or in water.

“Tanystropheus looked like a stubby crocodile with a very, very long neck,” Rieppel said. 

The researchers focused on the skulls of the animal.

“The power of CT scanning allows us to see details that are otherwise impossible to observe in fossils,” said Stephan Spiekman, lead author and a researcher at the University of Zurich. “From a strongly crushed skull we have been able to reconstruct an almost complete 3D skull, revealing crucial morphological details.”

They said evidence shows that these reptiles did in fact live in the water and they hunted by ambushing their prey.

The strange creatures resembled a prehistoric crocodile crossed with a giraffe.

At one point, paleontologists thought it was a flying creature and that its long, hollow bones were phalanges in the finger that supported the wing.

Later on, scientists found that instead, the creature stretched 20-feet long and their necks were ten-feet by themselves.

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