The Ancient Marine Predator (Brevicaudosaurus jiyangshanensis) With A Built-In Float

Approximately 240 million years ago, when reptiles used to rule the ocean, a small lizard-like predator typically floated close to the bottom of the edges in shallow water, hunting its prey with its help fang-like sharp teeth.

It had a short but flat tail for extra balance, and it got labeled as a new species, according to research posted in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Paleontologists of the Chinese Academy of Scientists and Canadian Musem of Nature took a look at two skeletons originating from a slim layer of limestone in two quarries of southwest China.

They concluded that the skeletons belonged to nothosaurs, Triassic marine reptiles with small heads, fangs, flipper-like limbs, elongated necks, and a longer tail, likely used as a means of propulsion. However, the new species presents a short and flat tail.

Dr. Qing-Hua Shang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing said:

“Our analysis of two well-preserved skeletons reveals a reptile with a broad, pachyostotic body (denser boned) and a very short, flattened tail. A long tail can be used to flick through the water, generating thrust. Still, the new species we’ve identified was probably better suited to hanging out near the bottom in shallow sea, using its short, flattened tail for balance, like an underwater float, allowing it to preserve energy while searching for prey.”

The scientists named the newly found species Brevicaudosaurus jiyangshanensis. In Latin, “brevi” means short, “caudo” means tail. In Greek, “sauros” means lizard, so you can see why the name makes sense.

The most anatomically correct skeleton of the two was discovered in the Jiyangshan quarry, thus the species’ name. It’s a giant lizard by today’s standards, registering a tad under 60 cm in length.