In 1852 researchers ran into a remarkable fossil, which has been a source of interest for decades. At one point, some paleontologists thought that it might have been a sort of a flying pterosaur, with the large hollow bones playing the role of phalanges.
Others argued that the long bones were, in fact, elongated neck bones, with half if its 20-foot size is coming from the 10-feet neck. It wasn’t clear if the reptile lived on land or in water and also wasn’t clear if smaller individuals were part of a different species or young specimens.
Uncovering new information
A team of researchers used high-resolution CT scanners to gather images of crushed skulls and created digital reconstruction, which offered access to a surprising amount of data. Evidence collected by the team infers that the creatures lived in water.
In-depth examinations of the growth rings that can be found in bones have also suggested that large and small Tanystropheus were, in fact, members of different species that may have lived together as they preferred different prey, and there were no reasons for competition between them. The fossils were found in a region which is a part of modern-day Switzerland.
Like a very long crocodile
According to one of the scientists who contributed to the new research, Tanystropheus looked like a stubby crocodile whose neck is very long. Larger specimens could be up to twenty feet long, despite the fact that they only had thirteen vertebrae, which are extra-long.
Both species lived 242 million years ago during the middle of the Triassic era. Within the same timeframe, the first dinosaurs started to surface while massive reptiles could be found in the water. Due to the bizarre shape of its body, it wasn’t clear of Tanystropheus preferred the land or the sea.
More information can be found in a paper published in a scientific journal.