A “nightmarish” marine lizard fossil from the age of dinosaurs has been found

  • Written by Sofia Ferreira Santos
  • BBC News

Image source, Andrei Atochin/University of Bath/PA Wire

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Scientists have shared a reconstructed image of what the lizard looked like 66 million years ago

Scientists said they have discovered fossils belonging to a type of “nightmare” marine lizard that hunted the oceans 66 million years ago.

the creature, Khingaria acutaIt was about 26 feet (8 metres) long – the same length as a killer whale – and had “dagger-like” teeth.

The researchers said that this species lived alongside dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops.

The study is based on the analysis of a skull and other skeletal remains found in a mine in Morocco.

Dr Nick Longreach from the University of Bath, who led the study, wrote that the “alien” species had a “demonic face and teeth like knives”.

Its powerful teeth and jaw gave the creature a “terrifying appearance” and “horrific bite force,” researchers said.

It also led the team to find the perfect name for the species.

“Word dagger Being an Arabic word meaning “dagger”, and Akuta Dr. Longrich added that the Latin word means “sharp,” meaning “sharp dagger” or “sharp knife.”

Image source, Nick Longrich/University of Bath/PA Wire

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The sea lizard's jaw and sharp teeth helped it eat its prey

Khingaria acuta It is a member of the family of giant marine lizards known as mosasaurs, distant relatives of the Komodo dragon and anaconda that exist today.

Researchers believe that the lizard was just one of a group of top predators that inhabited the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Morocco.

“They are one of the most diverse marine animals ever seen anywhere and at any time in history, and existed just before the extinction of marine reptiles and dinosaurs,” Dr Longrich said.

Both mosasaurs and dinosaurs became extinct at the end of the Late Cretaceous, about 66 million years ago.

Their extinction opened the seas to whales, seals and fish such as swordfish and tuna. But it also means that in modern marine food chains, there are fewer top predators.

“There appears to have been a significant change in ecosystem structure over the past 66 million years,” Dr Longrich said.

“This incredible diversity of the top predators of the Late Cretaceous is extraordinary, and we don't see it in modern marine communities.

“Whether there is something in marine reptiles that caused the difference in ecosystem, prey, or perhaps ecology, we don't know.

“But this was a very dangerous time to be a fish, a sea turtle or even a marine reptile.”

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