#College #Charleston #Paleontologists #Uncover #Strange
Charleston, South Carolina, Sept. 28, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The international peer-reviewed journal iScience published a paper on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, by a research team led by College of Charleston geology professor Scott Persons that details the discovery of a new kind of prehistoric marine reptile.
Measuring more than 23 feet in length, Serpentisuchops (sur-pen-ta-soo-kops) was a sea beast that swam the seas while dinosaurs walked the earth 70 million years ago, and the discovery is changing what paleontologists thought they knew about a group of animals called plesiosaurs.
“When I was a student,” says Persons, “I was taught that all late-evolving plesiosaurs fall into one of two anatomical categories: those with really long necks and tiny heads, and those with short necks and really long jaws. Well, our new animal totally confounds those categories.”
Serpentisuchops, whose name literally translates to “snakey crocodile-face,” has both a long serpentine neck and long crocodile-like jaws. That makes it an evolutionary oddball and a surprise for scientists.
The remains of the category-defying creature were unearthed from a sulfuric patch of badlands in eastern Wyoming. That land belonged to a rancher, Anna Pfister, who donated the fossil to the Glenrock Paleon Museum, where Persons is a research curator. It is for this donation that the animal gets its full two-part biological name: Serpentisuchops pfisterae. At the museum, a hard-working team of volunteers set about chipping away the rock that incrusted the bones and readying the specimen for scientific study. These volunteers included a group of elderly women, affectionately known as the “Glenrock Bone Biddies,” who have formed the paleontological equivalent of a sowing circle around preparing fossil bones for study. It was during this preparation stage that the weirdness of the skeleton became apparent.
The whole of the neck skeleton is beautifully preserved with each bone…