An international group of scientists with paleontologists from Russia has discovered remains of a pliosaur on a Volga river bank. A large marine reptile named “Luskhan itilensis” (from Latin “The major spirit”) lived in early Cretaceous period about 130 million years ago, the scientists determined. Their discovery was documented by the Current Biology magazine.
With their short necks, pliosaurs are a kind of plesiosaurs – reptiles with fins and barrel-shaped body. This group of reptiles lived with dinosaurs, but despite the similarities, they belonged to another class.
Full skull of Luskhan itilensis was found 15 years ago by the Russian paleontologist Gleb Uspensky. 1,5 metres in length indicates the large size of the animal. A narrow rostrum (anterior part of the skull, including jaws) is characteristic of river predators – gavials and river dolphins. According to the researchers, this means that the pliosaurs have mastered a wider range of ecological niches than it was previously thought.
In comparison with other findings of plesiosaurs showed that different species of marine reptiles developed similar external features independently. According to scientists, it is important to understand how these reptiles managed to survive the mass extinction at the end of Jurassic period, as well as to find the causes of their disappearance shortly before the death of dinosaurs.