CHARLESTON, SC (WXIN) — Researchers have discovered a new species of prehistoric sea creature whose name translates to “snake crocodile face.”
A team led by Scott Persons, professor of geology at the College of Charleston, is behind the discovery of the Serpentisuchops, described as “an animal that swam the seas 70 million years ago while dinosaurs roamed the earth”. It belongs to the animal group of plesiosaurs.
The creature has both a long serpentine neck and long crocodile-like jaws, a sort of anomaly for plesiosaurs.
“When I was a student,” Persons said, “I was taught that all late-developing plesiosaurs fall into one of two anatomical categories: those with really long necks and tiny heads, and those with short necks and really long jaws. Well, our new animal completely confuses those categories.”
The remains of Serpentisuchops were found in eastern Wyoming with the perfectly preserved skeleton of the creature’s long neck.
“The cervical vertebrae just kept spinning,” Persons said. “By comparison, your own neck has only seven vertebrae. Serpentisuchops has thirty-two.”
Researchers say the “exceptional preservation” was due to the specimen sinking to the sea floor and remaining buried by fine-grained sediment until its discovery 70 million years later.
Based on the new discovery, the research team suggests that older plesiosaur species should be reassessed to ensure their neck sizes weren’t undermeasured.
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