December 9, 2021

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250 million-year-old marine reptile ‘progressed pebble-shaped teeth to crush prey’

250 million-year-old marine reptile ‘progressed pebble-shaped teeth to crush prey’
An ancient marine reptile that swam the oceans nearly 250 million years ago had unusual pebble-like teeth which it used to crush hard-shelled prey, scientists believe. The creature, named Cartorhynchus lenticarpus, belongs to an extinct group of reptiles known as ichthyosaurs. Not much is known about the ancestry of these animals but experts believe they…

An ancient marine reptile that swam the oceans almost 250 million years earlier had uncommon pebble-like teeth which it utilized to squash hard-shelled victim, scientists think.

The creature, called Cartorhynchus lenticarpus, comes from an extinct group of reptiles referred to as ichthyosaurs

Very little is known about the origins of these animals but specialists think they may be “more carefully related to crocodiles and dinosaurs and birds than they are to lizards and snakes”.

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Olivier Rieppel, a palaeontologist at the Field Museum in Chicago and one of the research study authors, said: “By studying this early ichthyosaur’s unusual rounded teeth, we get a much better understanding of how these animals developed and what their way of lives were like.”

At 1.5 feet long, Cartorhynchus is the tiniest known ichthyosaur and may have resided on land and in the sea.

Picture released by the Field Museum Chicago of a fossil specimen of Cartorhynchus lenticarpus, a small early ichthyosaur with a short snout and seal-like appendage (PA).

Its fossil remains discovered in Anhui province, China, date from the start of the Triassic duration about 248 million years ago.

While scanning the fossil, scientists found uncommon pebble-like teeth hidden in its brief snout, with signs of wear and tear.

The teeth might have been used for squashing the shells of snails and clam-like molluscs referred to as bivalves, the researchers stated.

Mr Rieppel stated: “When we first explained Cartorhynchus, we thought that it didn’t have any teeth at all and was a suction feeder. However later on, researchers understood that it did have some teeth further back in its jaws.”

In addition to huge flippers, Cartorhynchus had versatile wrists for movement on the ground.

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Mr Rieppel said: “Ichthyosaurs ended up being creatures of the open ocean, but the smaller sized types, like Cartorhynchus, probably lived closer to the coast and got invertebrates to eat from the seafloor.”

The researchers compared Cartorhynchus to other early ichthyosaurs and discovered rounded teeth surfaced in a number of other species.

This suggests the characteristic evolved separately more than once rather than from one common ancestor, they said.

Cartorhynchus lived about 4 million years after the worst mass termination in history, called the Permian-Triassic extinction, which erased 96 per cent of types and might have been linked to international warming.

Mr Rieppel stated: “There were no marine reptiles prior to the Triassic.

” That’s what makes these early ichthyosaurs so fascinating– they inform us about the recovery from the mass extinction since they went into the sea only after it.

” By getting a better understanding of how these ichthyosaurs developed, we get a better sense of how life rebounds after terminations, and that lesson is still relevant today.”

The findings are released in the journal Scientific Reports

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