Navigation Links
Newly discovered paddle prints show how ancient sea reptiles swam

Trackways formed on an ancient seabed have shed new light on how nothosaurs, ancient marine reptiles that lived during the age of the dinosaurs, propelled themselves through water. The evidence is described by a team from Bristol and China in Nature Communications today.

During the Mesozoic, 252-66 million years ago, the seas were ruled by a variety of marine reptiles. One of the earliest groups were the nothosaurs, voracious semi-aquatic hunters with elongate bodies and paddle-like limbs. They were the top predators of the Triassic coasts, some 245 million years ago.

Their mode of swimming has long been debated: did they row themselves along with a back-and-forth motion of their limbs, or did they 'fly' underwater, sweeping their forepaddles in a figure-eight motion like a modern penguin?

Scientists from the University of Bristol and colleagues in China studied trackways formed on an ancient seabed which were recently discovered in Yunnan, southwest China. The tracks consist of slots in the mud arranged in pairs, and in long series of ten to fifty that follow straight lines and sweeping curves.

The size and spacing of the paired markings indicate that they were created by the forelimbs of nothosaurs, representing animals ranging in size from over 3 metres to less than a metre in length.

They demonstrate that that these reptiles moved over the seafloor by rowing their forelimbs in unison, the first direct evidence of how these creatures propelled themselves in the water.

Two types of nothosaurs, the large Nothosaurus and the diminutive Lariosaurus, known from complete fossil skeletons from the Triassic of southern China, are the likely trackmakers.

Professor Qiyue Zhang from Chengdu Center of China Geological Survey, leader of the research, said: "We interpret the tracks as foraging trails. The nothosaur was a predator, and this was a smart way to feed. As its paddles scooped out the soft mud, they probably disturbed fishes and shrimps, which it snapped up with needle-sharp teeth."

The tracks come from localities around Luoping in Yunnan, a well known site of exceptional fossil preservation that has yielded thousands of exquisite fossils of sea creatures, and occasional plants and small terrestrial animals blown in from the nearby islands.

Professor Michael Benton from the University of Bristol, one of the co-authors of the research, said: "When I first saw the site, I couldn't believe the amazing quality of the fossils. It's quite unusual to find skeletons of marine reptiles such as the nothosaurs so close to evidence of their tracks."

Luoping and other sites in South China are shedding light on the recovery of life from the devastating Permo-Triassic mass extinction event which wiped out more than 90 per cent of all species on Earth. Nothosaurs and other marine reptiles were new members of the recovering ecosystems.

Co-author Professor Shixue Hu, also from Chengdu Center of China Geological Survey, said: "Here we see a detailed snapshot of how life was within 8 million years of the mass extinction. It took all that time for the Earth to settle down from the cataclysm, and the arrival of these large, complex marine predators shows us the ecosystems had finally rebuilt themselves, and life could be said to have recovered from the crisis."


Contact: Hannah Johnson
University of Bristol

Related biology news :

1. Newly identified B-cell selection process adds to understanding of antibody diversity
2. Newly identified brain cancer mutation will aid drug development
3. Newly found dinosaur is long-nosed cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex
4. Newly discovered molecule may offer hope for immune disorders and runaway inflammation
5. Newly identified small-RNA pathway defends genome against the enemy within
6. Newly discovered catalyst could lead to the low-cost production of clean methanol
7. Newly discovered marsupial the victim of fatal attraction
8. Newly discovered signaling pathway could impact a variety of autoinflammatory diseases
9. Newly discovered human peptide may become a new treatment for diabetes
10. Attention Vical Incorporated Investors: Vical Misled Investors According to a Newly Filed Class Action
11. Newly identified proteins make promising targets for blocking graft-vs.-host disease
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/16/2016)... The global Biometric ... USD 1.83 billion by 2024, according to a ... proliferation and increasing demand in commercial buildings, consumer ... the market growth.      (Logo: ... of advanced multimodal techniques for biometric authentication and ...
(Date:6/9/2016)... leader in attendance control systems is proud to announce the introduction of fingerprint attendance ... the right employees are actually signing in, and to even control the opening of ... ... ... Photo - ...
(Date:6/7/2016)... -- Syngrafii Inc. and San Antonio Credit Union (SACU) ... Syngrafii,s patented LongPen™ eSignature "Wet" solution into SACU,s ... in greater convenience for SACU members and operational ... document workflow and compliance requirements. Logo ... Highlights: ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... - FACIT has announced the creation of a ... Propellon Therapeutics Inc. ("Propellon" or "the Company"), to ... of first-in-class WDR5 inhibitors for the treatment of ... an exciting class of therapies, possessing the potential ... patients. Substantial advances have been achieved with the ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Charm Sciences, Inc. is ... has received AOAC Research Institute approval 061601. , “This is another AOAC-RI approval ... Bob Salter, Vice President of Regulatory and Industrial Affairs. “The Peel Plate methods ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016   EpiBiome , ... secured $1 million in debt financing from Silicon Valley ... up automation and to advance its drug development efforts, ... new facility. "SVB has been an incredible ... the services a traditional bank would provide," said Dr. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... ... In a new case report published today in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine, ... after being treated for breast cancer benefitted from an injection of stem cells derived ... debilitating, frequent side effect of cancer treatment. , Lymphedema refers to the ...
Breaking Biology Technology: