Scientists track down paddling dinosaurs
EVER wondered how the ancient marine reptiles like the plesiosaur used those awesome flippers?
Scientists published in the Nature Communications journal have the answer, thanks to sets of fossilised footprints - er, flipperprints - found in China.
The study, by scientists in China, the UK and Australia, say they tracks created by the paddles of nothosaurs showed they aort of "rowed", with both forelimbs moving together.
Research leader Professor Qiyue Zhang from the Chengdu Centre of China Geological Survey, said: "We interpret the tracks as foraging trails. The nothosaur was a predator, and this was a smart way to feed. As its paddles scooped out the soft mud, they probably disturbed fishes and shrimps, which it snapped up with needle-sharp teeth."
The study's abstract says: "The seas of the Mesozoic (266-66 million years ago) were remarkable for predatory marine reptiles, but their modes of locomotion have been debated. One problem has been the absence of tracks, although there is no reason to expect that swimmers would produce tracks.
"We report here seabed tracks made by Mesozoic marine reptiles, produced by the paddles of nothosaurs (Reptilia, Sauropterygia) in the Middle Triassic of the Luoping localities in Yunnan, southwestern China.
"These show that the track-making nothosaurs used their forelimbs for propulsion, they generally rowed (both forelimbs operating in unison rather than alternately), and the forelimb entered medially, dug in as the paddle tip gained purchase, and withdrew cleanly.
"These inferences may provide evidence for swimming modes, or it could be argued that the locomotory modes indicated by the tracks were restricted to such contact propulsion. Such punting behaviour may have been used to flush prey from the bottom muds."
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