New marine reptile in dinosaur's age identified in south China
BEIJING, April 7 (Xinhua) -- Chinese and Canadian paleontologists have reported a new large marine reptile species, the contemporaries of dinosaurs, from the south of China.
The study, published on Thursday in the journal PeerJ, described some vertebrate bones exposed in limestone in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
Researchers from the China University of Geosciences and the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum in Canada confirmed the specimen was that of a marine reptile, possibly a relative of ichthyosaurs.
Ichthyosaurs thrived during much of the Mesozoic era (251 million to 65.5 million years ago). They were most abundant and diverse during the Triassic and Jurassic periods when dinosaurs ruled the land.
The fossil comprises only the front part of the trunk skeleton, including some vertebrae and ribs, a limb bone, and abdominal bones called gastralia.
The researchers compared the fossil comprehensively with other marine reptiles from the Early Triassic and ultimately concluded its identity.
The fossil belongs to a previously unknown species, and the researchers named it Baisesaurus robustus, said the study.
The reptile is estimated to have been about three meters long, making this newly discovered marine reptile significantly larger than any other Early Triassic Ichthyosaurs-like reptiles from China.
It also has a more robust radius than its peers, suggesting strong swimming abilities, possibly for long-distance migrations along the eastern margin of an ancient ocean, said the study.