Last updated January 11, 2018 at 10:44 am
A new fossil from the Late Jurassic, described by US researchers Gabriel Bever and Mark Norell, sheds new light on how a group of prehistoric reptiles, the Pleurosaurs, left land behind for life in the water.
Solnhofen Limestone in Germany has provided some of the world’s most beautiful and important fossils in the world, including the early feathered dinosaur Archaeopteryx. The Lepidosauria – the group from which modern lizards and snakes come from, would go on to produce a number of aquatic and semi-aquatic lineages including the marine mosasaurs (made famous in Jurrassic World), plesiosaurs, and modern sea snakes.
But the first ones to take to marine life were the mysterious Pleurosaurs, of which very little is known. The only remaining relative of the Pleurosaurs is the modern Tuatara, which lives on some small islands off the coast of New Zealand.
Named for famed filmmaker Werner Herzog, the new fossil Vadasaurus herzogi has features that suit it to aquatic life, including a longer, slender eel-like body for gliding through the water and changes to the skull and jaw to allow the quick, snapping bite used by many aquatic animals.
The researchers named the fossil for the legendary German filmmaker to “honour his continuing exploration of the relationship between life and time”.