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“Incredible experience”: Researchers find 240 million year old dragon fossil in China

2024-03-01T04:03:49.742Z

Highlights: “Incredible experience’: Researchers find 240 million year old dragon fossil in China. It has a neck that is longer than the body and tail combined, fins in the limbs, and is over 240 million years old. Researchers from Scotland, Germany, the United States and China studied the fossil for ten years at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing. The fossils were discovered in Guizhou province in southern China and date back to the Triassic period.



As of: March 1, 2024, 4:48 a.m

By: Julia Hanigk

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The Dinocephalosaurus orientalis fossil.

© National Museums Scotland

Researchers discovered a dragon-like fossil in China.

The reptile, completely preserved for the first time, helps to represent the Triassic era.

Guizhou Province - It has a neck that is longer than the body and tail combined, fins in the limbs, and is over 240 million years old: In China, researchers have now found a fossil that looks like a dragon.

It is the first completely preserved reptile of its kind and allows conclusions to be drawn about life on Earth at that time.

Researchers discover 240 million year old fossil in China – “mixture of snake and dragon”

In their statement, the research team from National Museums Scotland talks about “another strange marine reptile from the Middle Triassic of Europe and China”.

The “Dinocephalosaurus orientalis”, as the fossilized animal is scientifically called, measures a full five meters.

It had 32 cervical vertebrae and lived in the sea.

“Resembling a cross between a snake and a dragon, the reptile was very well adapted to an oceanic lifestyle, as evidenced by the finned limbs and the excellently preserved fish in its stomach region,” it continues.

The fossils were discovered in Guizhou province in southern China and date back to the Triassic period.

'Mystical Chinese Dragon' to 'Spark Imaginations of the World'

The already known plesiosaurs that inspired the Loch Ness myth also lived at this time, the researchers explained.

However, these long-necked animals are not related to the new find - they only developed around 40 million years later. 

Nick Freaser, head of natural sciences at National Museums Scotland, said: “This discovery allows us to fully see this remarkable long-necked animal for the first time.

It's another example of the weird and wonderful world of the Triassic that continues to puzzle paleontologists.

We are sure it will capture imaginations around the world due to its striking appearance, reminiscent of the long, snake-like, mythical Chinese dragon.” 

Dragon fish animated for the first time: This is what the prehistoric fossil could have looked like

Although it is not the first discovery of a Dinocephalosaurus orientalis, it is the first intact one.

Scientists first encountered the reptile in 2003.

The new find means that the fossil can be fully represented as a bizarre long-necked animal using animations.

Researchers from Scotland, Germany, the United States and China studied the fossil for ten years at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. 

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Animation of Dragon Fish swimming next to a prehistoric fish known as Saurichthys.

© Marlene Donelly/National Museums of Scotland

“Incredible experience”: Important results for research into the Triassic period

Professor Li Chun, from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, said: “This was an international effort.

Of all the extraordinary finds we have made in the Triassic of Guizhou Province, Dinocephalosaurus is probably the most remarkable.” 

And his colleague Dr.

Stephan Spiekman, postdoctoral researcher at the State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart, added: “For me as a young researcher, it was an incredible experience to contribute to these important findings.

We hope that our future research will help us understand more about the evolution of this group of animals and, in particular, how the extended neck works.”

It's not the only great find scientists are excited about.

Most recently, it was discovered that a thousand-year-old egg unexpectedly still had contents.

This means research can now be carried out into keeping chickens in Roman times.

Another “dragon skull” find on the North Sea also caused a stir.

(jh)

Source: merkur

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