Joschua Knüppe / Museum of Natural History Luxembourg
The fossil of an ancient “super predator” which stalked the ocean depths has transformed scientists’ understanding of how sea creatures emerged.
The Lorrainosaurus – named after the region in France, not the TV personality – was unearthed in 1983 by palaeontology enthusiasts, but its fossil has taken on a new significance after recent studies.
Exhibited in Luxembourg's National Museum of Natural History, the dinosaur had huge jaws and teeth and a six-metre-long, streamlined body.
It is the oldest pliosaur fossil on record, meaning that when researchers came to do a fresh study of it, they hoped it could lead to some new information being uncovered.
They concluded that the fossil represented an entirely new genus of pliosaur, and also came to some new conclusions about when pliosaurs first came onto the scene.
Lorrainosaurus also indicates that gigantic megapredatory pliosaurs must have commenced earlier than previously thought, and was locally responsive to major ecological changes affecting marine environments covering what is now western Europe during the early Middle Jurassic. 3/4
“We were able to show that Lorrainosaurus was one of the first truly large pliosaurs to develop and give rise to a dynasty of marine reptile super-predators that dominated the oceans for around 80m years,” said Sven Sachs, who led the study.
He also said the Lorrainosaurus also shows that pliosaurs emerged earlier than originally thought, during the early-Middle Jurassic period, from about 174.1m to 163.5m years ago.
“Lorrainosaurus therefore provides important knowledge about ancient marine reptiles from a phase of the dinosaur era that has only been incompletely studied until now,” his team said in a statement.
Sachs added on Twitter: “Lorrainosaurus also indicates that gigantic megapredatory pliosaurs must have commenced earlier than previously thought, and was locally responsive to major ecological changes affecting marine environments covering what is now western Europe during the early Middle Jurassic.”
Whenever it was around, you’d better hope you don’t come across one next time you take a dip in the sea.