Scientists have identified an ancient sea monster that swam the seas of northern Germany more than 130 million years ago and resembles the well-known Loch Ness monster.
It is one of the earliest known Elasmosaurs — a group of long-necked aquatic reptiles called plesiosaurs that lived during the Age of Dinosaurs.
The skeletal remains of Lagenanectes richterae, as the new creature is named, were first collected in 1964 from an abandoned clay pit near Sarstedt. But researchers from the natural history museum in Bielefeld, Germany were only recently called upon to study the specimen.
“It was an honor to be asked to research the mysterious Sarstedt plesiosaur skeleton,” stated Sven Sachs from the Natural History Museum in Bielefeld, Germany, and lead author on the study. “It has been one of the hidden jewels of the museum, and even more importantly, has turned out to be new to science.”
The perfectly preserved bones excavated from L. richterae include the skull, vertebrae, ribs, and bones from the four flipper-like extremities.
“The jaws had some especially unusual features,” stated Dr. Jahn Hornung, co-author on the paper. “Its broad chin was expanded into a massive jutting crest, and its lower teeth stuck out sideways. These probably served to trap small fish and squid that were then swallowed whole.”
The finding is especially significant because the creature is among the first of its kind.
“It is one of the earliest elasmosaurs, an extremely successful group of globally distributed plesiosaurs that seem to have had their evolutionary origins in the seas that once inundated Western Europe,” explains co-author Dr. Benjamin Kear.
The skull of this newly discovered “Loch Ness Monster” will be placed on display in the ‘Water Worlds’ exhibition at the Lower Saxony State Museum for public viewing.
The study was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.