marine reptiles long-necked were beheaded by their predators during the age of the dinosaurs, as revealed by a study by paleontologists from the Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History (SMNS) and the Miquel Crusafont Catalan Institute of Paleontology (ICP).
In a statement, both institutions have reported that the research, published this Monday in the journal «Current Biology», has described the first evidence fossil of deadly attacks by predators targeting the long-necked marine reptile of the Triassic Tanystropheus, despite the fact that «finding evidence of predator-prey interactions in the fossil record is very rare.»
«For more than 200 years, paleontologists have speculated about whether these long-necked marine reptiles were especially vulnerable to attack by large predators, but no fossils found to support this idea until now», they explain from the center.
It has been thanks to paleontologists Stephan Spiekman, Triassic reptile expert, and Eudald Mujal, specialist in taphonomy and trophic interactions, given two fossil specimens of the marine reptile Tanystropheus, from an antiquity 242 million years.
For nearly 200 years, paleontologists have speculated that the long necks of marine reptiles were vulnerable to attack by large predators. paleontologists of the @SMNStuttgart now stands first #fossil evidence of attacks by deadly predators targeting the long necks of Tanystropheus. pic.twitter.com/quoqUbV8tI
—Naturkundemuseum Stuttgart (@SMNStuttgart) June 19, 2023
In the fossils, they observed that the necks of these two animals were completely separated from the body and showed marks of having been bitten by predators. «The type of abrupt fracture of the bones together with the arrangement of bite marks suggests that the necks were sections of a single bite», Mujal said.
In this sense, the documented injuries suggest that the long neck could represent a functional weakness in this group of animals on certain occasions; and the absence of the body, which the predators that hunted them probably fed on.
They lived between Switzerland and Italy.
As detailed by the SMNS and the ICP, two species are known Tanystropheus of ago 242 million years who lived in a shallow sea on the border between what is now switzerland and italyone that was no more than five feet long and probably fed on crustaceans and other invertebrates, and another that could reach six meters and fed on fish and cephalopods.
«The small species of Tanystropheus could have been decapitated by different predators, from a large fish to another marine reptile. In contrast, for the large species there are fewer possible candidates,» Spiekman said.
«Of the various forms of marine reptiles, Tanystropheus is perhaps one of the stranger examples: It had a neck three times as long as its torso, but with only 13 extremely elongated vertebrae. This made his neck particularly long, thin, and stiff. Most likely, it used it to catch its prey using an ambush strategy,» explained the researcher.
Tanystropheus was a species with a relative evolutionary success that you suffered for at least million ten years and fossil remains have been found in Europe, middle East, Porcelain, North America and possibly South America.
The fossils used in the study, now deposited in the University of Zurichcome from the deposit Mount San Giorgionear the border between Switzerland and Italy, one of the most important marine fossils of the Middle Triassicdesignated World Heritage by UNESCO.