Researchers rediscover lost fossil revealing ancient sea monster

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Jan 30, 2013, 7:47 PM EST (Updated)

It's amazing what you find when you decide to do a little drawer re-organizing, especially if the drawers you're opening are in a museum.

Paleontologists recently opened a drawer at the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow, Scotland, to find something amazing that had lain forgotten for more than 100 years: the fossilized jawbone of Tyrannoneustes lythrodectkos, a "dolphinlike crocodile" that lived 165 million years ago.

As you can see from the above illustration, the creature had a more crocodlian head but a very dolphinlike body, and had the distinction of being a "super-predator," meaning it was powerful enough to take on prey that was its own size or bigger. As for its size, we don't know yet exactly how big it was, but one side of its lower jaw (below) was a whopping 26 inches long, which means we're probably looking at one big sea monster. What's more, it had a fantastic predatorial jaw design.

"These features include enlarged teeth, teeth with serrated edges, and a change in the shape of the lower jaw that allowed it to open wider," said paleontologist Mark Young of the University of Edinburgh and the University of Southampton.

The fossils were first found in central England by Alfred Leeds sometime between 1907 and 1909. They were then put into a drawer and forgotten until Young and his colleagues found them. Now they're trying to learn as much as they can about the creature, which Young said isn't actually an ancestor of modern crocodiles, but rather part of a branch of sea-dwelling crocodiles known as metriorhynchids, which are now extinct.

"This new species fills an evolutionary gap in the metriorhynchid fossil record," Young said. "The discovery of Tyrannoneustes shows that during the Middle Jurassic, metriorhynchid crocodiles were beginning to evolve into predators of large-bodied prey. By the Late Jurassic, numerous metriorhynchid species were suited to feeding on large prey, but Tyrannoneustes is the first known from the Middle Jurassic. How this impacted upon other predatory groups such as pliosaurs and ichthyosaurs is still unclear."

(Via Huffington Post)