A team of Chinese researchers have unearthed an extraordinary fossil of an ancient pregnant long-necked marine reptile that lived millions of years prior to the dinosaurs in the southern part of the country.
The fossil belongs to nearly 245 million-year-old creature that had a developing embryo at the time of its death. It indicated this ancient reptile used to give birth to live babies and not laying eggs.
The extraordinary fish-eating marine creature, dubbed Dinocephalosaurus, lived during the Triassic Period. Scientists believe that studying this creature will help them better understand the evolution of vertebrate reproductive systems.
Mike Benton, a paleontologist from the University of Bristol, said, “I think you'd be amazed to see it, with its tiny head and long snaky neck.”
Scientists say that Dinocephalosaurus is the first member of a wide group of vertebrates known as archosauromorphs, which includes birds, extinct flying reptiles, crocodilians and dinosaurs. All those creatures are known to give birth that way.
The discovery of the extraordinary ancient fossil was described in the most recent edition of the journal Nature Communications.