From ancient sea monsters off the coast of England to the, the winged reptile that climbed trees, here are 10 prehistoric creatures that were recently discovered.
10. Mysterious Sea Dragon.
150 Million Years Ago
Researchers in England have discovered an aquatic reptile that lived 150 million years ago, Found in a Late Jurassic deep marine deposit in Dorset along the English Channel coastline.
It was recently identified as a new species from the ichthyosaur group.
Dubbed Thalassodraco etchesi, the ancient sea monster is quite unique enough to warrant being classified as a new genus and species.
According to a recently published study, Ichthyosaurs have been studied for the last 200 years in England, making discoveries of new species exceedingly rare.
As soon as the team saw it, they knew it was special.
Researchers spent about a year comparing the specimen to other ichthyosaurs and were excited when they did not match it to any of them.
They determined that the small-finned creature was about six feet (1.8 meters) long.
It had an extremely deep rib cage, which likely gave it a barrel-like body making room for large lungs.
This means it could probably dive very deep below the water’s surface.
The animal’s large eyes may have helped it see in the dark, also suggesting that it was a deep diver or perhaps nocturnal, Because of T etchesi’s distinctive body shape.
It likely swam differently from other ichthyosaurs.
It also had hundreds of tiny, smooth teeth that were ideal for eating squid and small fish, unlike other ichthyosaurs, which generally had large, sharp teeth.
The next step is for scientists to further study the animal’s biology to better understand its habits and behaviors.
It was definitely doing something different.
Ichthyosaurs started out as lizard-like land animals and eventually adapted to marine life and transitioned into the Shark- and dolphin-like creatures found in fossils.
The largest known ichthyosaurs were found in North America and had skulls measuring up to 16 feet (4.9 meters) long.
Researchers recently identified what may be the earliest known animal with opposable thumbs.
It is a giant flying reptile with thumbs, Nicknamed Monkeydactyl and scientifically named Kunpengopterus Antipollicatus (yeah, , don’t quote me on that) -.
160 Million Years Old
The 160-million-year-old fossilized pterosaur was discovered in the ancient Tiaojishan forest in China.
It had a small body with an approximate wingspan of 33-and-a-half inches (85 cm).
Using 3d imaging and X-ray technology, an international team of researchers determined that the species’ opposable thumbs likely made it well-suited for climbing and grasping objects and possibly enabled it to live high up in the trees.
By comparing the specimen with other pterosaurs, the team concluded that the Monkeydactyl had the right build for climbing, Because not all pterosaurs had opposable thumbs or could climb.
These advantageous characteristics would have reduced competition for the Monkeydactyl.
See, you remember this name, don’t you?
What’s the scientific name again?
But not all experts necessarily agree with the findings.
Speaking with Gizmodo, paleontologist Kevin Padian pointed out that having opposable thumbs is not a guaranteed indicator of a tree-dwelling species, citing the example that raccoons have this trait but don’t always live in trees.
300 Million Years Old
Now scientists are on the lookout for a better-preserved fossil to see just what Monkeydactyl was up to 8.. ‘Godzilla’ Shark , A 300-million-year-old fossil, famously known as the ‘Godzilla’ shark, finally has a scientific name nine years after it was discovered in New Mexico’s Manzano Mountains.
It has 12 rows of sharp teeth and two-and-a-half-foot tall, (76.2 cm) fin spines Measuring about 6.7-feet-long, (2 meters).
The creature is now formally called Dracopristis hoffmanorum, or Hoffman’s Dragon Shark, named after the family who owns the land it was discovered on.
It might sound unusual for a shark to be discovered in the mountains of one of the country’s driest regions, But sea levels were much higher back when the ‘Godzilla’ shark existed and what is now New Mexico was submerged beneath a seaway that extended into North America.
Scientists believe the species dwelled in shallow coastal waters, feasting on crustaceans and fish.
Its teeth were shorter than those of modern sharks, measuring roughly 0.8 inches, (2 cm) long, and were better suited for grasping and crushing rather than piercing the animal’s prey.
In the words of John-Paul Hodnett, who discovered the fossil as a graduate student: in 2013..
390 Million Years Ago
The specimen represents one of the most complete fossilized skeletons ever found among its evolutionary branch, which split from the modern shark lineage around 390 million years ago.
It’s believed that the ‘Godzilla’ shark went extinct roughly 60 million years later.
7. Ice Age Horse Workers who were recently hired to build a pool in Las Vegas were shocked to find a collection of bones buried about four or five feet (1.2-1.5 meters) deep on the property.
Police were summoned to the scene, where they established that the bones weren’t human and told homeowner Matt Perkins that the artifacts were more-or-less his problem to deal with.
Relieved that the bones weren’t human, but curious about what animal they did belong to, Perkins had local paleontologist Joshua Bonde of the Nevada Science Center take a look.
Bonde told Cnn that the fossilized remains are a prehistoric horse dating back an estimated 14,000 years to the last Ice Age.
Didn’t expect that in Las Vegas, did you?
Researchers will perform tests to determine its precise age and perhaps even its species.
Its bones were still connected the way they were when the horse was alive, which he said is rare and indicates that its remains were buried quickly after its death, protecting the corpse from scavengers.
The horse lived alongside extinct creatures like mammoths, camels, saber-toothed cats, dire wolves and, more Ironically, Perkins and his husband had joked before the discovery about the possibility of the workers digging up a dinosaur.
Not quite a dino, but still something pretty cool.
The couple put the pool’s construction on hold so researchers can collect, study and display the horse to the public.
What would you do if you found bones in your backyard?
Let me know in the comments below.
And now Fornumber 6, but first wanted to say a big thank you to Joe W and Steven Toye.
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The origins explained family, and let me know your favorite prehistoric creature in the comments below.
6. Frog-Faced Ancient Turtle.
72-66 Million Years Ago
Between 72 and 66 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous period, an ancient turtle with a face like a frog sucked up its prey.
It had no teeth.
Like all modern turtles, a flattened skull and poorly developed upper and lower jaw, But it did have a large tongue bone, which made it a great suction feeder.
It lived in what is now the island nation of Madagascar.
As a suction feeder, it did not use its jaws to process food, but instead ate small-bodied living prey whole.
Dubbed Sahonachelys Mailakavava, the prehistoric species is what paleontologist Dr David Krause called “a stunning example of evolution in isolation”.
Krause explained that the turtle evolved by itself on Madagascar for over 20 million years, like a multitude of other extinct species that have been discovered there.
A fossilized specimen found in 2015 in northern Madagascar is, as Krause put it, by far the best-preserved Late Cretaceous turtle among the southern continents.
The team was actually looking for dinosaurs and crocodiles, but as an extra bonus, they found this turtle shell almost entirely intact In a place known for its unique wildlife due to its isolation from the rest of the planet.
The fossil shows that animals that lived in Madagascar tens of millions of years ago were already very distinct from creatures in other parts of the world.
At the same time, the discovery also sheds light on a phenomenon called convergent evolution, when different animals independently evolve similar traits to adapt to their surroundings.
5. Burrowing Mammal Ancestors.
120 Million Years Ago
Around 120 million years ago, two distantly-related ancestors of modern-day mammals lived in what is now northeastern China, Recently identified as the earliest known ‘scratch-diggers’ in the ancient Jehol Biota ecosystem.
These burrowing creatures independently evolved similar traits to support their lifestyle.
They are mammal-like, but weren’t quite mammals yet.
A big question for scientists is why animals dig into the soil and live underground.
There are many guesses, like protection against predators and help maintaining a comfortable temperature.
145 Million – 100 Million Years Ago
The new species lived sometime between 145 million and 100 million years ago during the Early Cretaceous.
They were equipped with specialized traits for burrowing, including short limbs, a short tail and strong forelimbs with well-developed hands.
One is a tritylodontid or mammal-like lizard named Fossiomanus sinensis Measuring about a foot (30.5 cm) long.
It had an elongated spine made up of 38 vertebrae — 12 more than the 26 that typical modern mammals have.
The other specimen, dubbed Jueconodon Cheni, is around seven inches, (18 cm) long and is, , a distant cousin of modern placental mammals and marsupials.
Known as an eutri-cono-dontan.
It had 26 vertebrae, also making it longer than most mammals
Scientists believe that a genetic mutation that occurs during embryonic development is responsible for the animals’ elongated spines.
This is known to occur in some modern-day mammals, including elephants, manatees and hyraxes.
First Nocturnal Dinosaur.
65 Million Years Ago
Around 65 million years ago, in the deserts of what is now Mongolia, lived a strange genus of theropod dinosaurs called Shuvuuia, hailing from the group that gave rise to modern-day birds.
There is only one known Shuvuuia species: Shuvuuia Deserti, which means “desert bird”.
It was about half the size of a chicken, with long legs, a fragile skull and powerful arms equipped with single claws.
While the desert bird’s existence is not a new discovery, researchers recently learned through a new study that it may have been the first dinosaur to hunt at night.
That’s a huge advantage.
After one team member noticed that the Shuvuuia’s Lagena — an organ that processes hearing — was unusually long, the scientists compared the species with Ct scans of around 100 living birds and extinct dinosaurs.
They also measured each species’ scleral rings, which are the bones surrounding the pupils, to determine which animals were more likely to have operated in low light.
Much to their surprise, the barn owl — a nocturnal species with exceptional hearing — was the only creature with a comparably long Lagena to the Shuvuuia.
Additionally, the Shuvuuia’s slceral ring was large in diameter, meaning it let in a lot of light and perhaps suited the animal to hunting in the dark.
The team believes that the creature’s remarkable hearing helped it locate burrowing insects and small mammals, then seized its prey by digging with one of its two large singular claws.
These traits, including nocturnal activity, digging ability and long hind limbs, are also seen in modern-day desert animals.
Throughout the study, the team also learned that most dinosaurs were primarily daytime creatures and that predatory dinosaurs typically had good hearing compared to most birds, while herbivorous dinosaurs usually had poor hearing compared to most birds.
New Saber-Toothed Cat.
North America was once home to massive creatures that would seem wildly out-of-place today, including one of the largest cats that ever lived.
9-5 Million Years Ago
The newly identified saber-toothed species roamed the continent between nine and five million years ago, hunting rhinos and bison.
Several years ago, a graduate student rediscovered the big cat’s massive upper arm bone at the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History, leaving experts perplexed about what species it belonged to.
A years-long effort to solve the mystery ensued, culminating in a collection of seven previously uncategorized fossil specimens that were used to describe the new species.
Researchers determined that the cat, dubbed Machairodus lahayishupup, was closely related to the Smilodon, an ancient saber-toothed species that also once roamed North America, But it was much larger than the Smilodon, weighing up to 900 pounds, (408 kg), and was capable of routinely killing prey that weighed as much as 6,000 pounds, (2,722 kg).
Throughout the study, the team discovered numerous other bones belonging to the species in collections throughout western North America, with the largest leg bone measuring 18 inches (45.7 cm) long.
To give you an idea of how big this cat was, a modern adult male lion’s humerus is around 13 inches (33 cm) long.
While the identification of the species is a landmark discovery in terms of our understanding of prehistoric megafauna, scientists are still struggling to untangle the evolution of ancient saber-toothed cats and determine how they were related.
2. Duck-Billed Dinosaur.
Scientists recently identified a new genus and species of hadrosaur, or duck-billed dinosaur, , marking a step forward in their attempts to better understand this large family of herbivorous dinosaurs who roamed the Earth during the Cretaceous Period.
Discovered in 2004 on a small island off Japan’s southern shore, the species was finally named this year in a new study.
Paleontologist Yoshitsugu Kobayashi told Science Alert that it’s one of only two Late Cretaceous dinosaurs ever discovered in Japan, with the other being the Kamuysaurus, which was identified in 2019 after being discovered on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Before then, scientists had no idea what dinosaurs lived in Japan during that time.
The Yamatosaurus (Yamatosaurus izanagii) had a duck-billed snout with multiple rows of blunt teeth that it used for chewing plants, but unlike other hadrosaurs, its teeth were not easily expendable.
Usually, hadrosaurs teeth fell out easily and were replaced with new teeth.
Instead, the Yamatosaurus had tough teeth that did not appear to fall out or grow back easily, indicating that it had a different diet from mainland hadrosaurs.
The creature’s skeletal structure was also different from other known species, falling somewhere in the transition between being a four-legged and two-legged walker.
In evolutionary terms, this suggests that the Yamatosaurus originated in Asia.
Discoveries like this are helping to put together the migration patterns of hadrosaurs, who scientists previously believed migrated from North America to Asia.
More specifically, the Yamatosaurus upends this theory by suggesting that hadrosaurs in fact moved from Asia to North America.
1. Dinosaur-Age Mammal.
The Cerro Guido region of Chilean Patagonia is a hotbed of fossils belonging to dinosaurs and other prehistoric species from Antarctica and the Americas that migrated through the area millions of years ago.
Earlier this year, scientists announced the discovery of a jaw with five teeth representing a previously unknown mammal that lived in Cerro Guido between 72 and 74 million years ago, near the end of the Mesozoic Era and just a few million years before the dinosaurs went extinct.
The specimen named Orretherium tzen is the second oldest known mammal ever found in Chile
It somewhat resembled a skunk Based on its teeth.
It was likely omnivorous, feeding on both plants and animals.
Researchers believe it was related to other mammals found in Patagonia.
This groundbreaking discovery is a potential game changer when it comes to scientists’ understanding of the evolution of animals during the Age of Dinosaurs, according to paleontologist Alexander Vargas, who worked on the project.
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