Paelontologists uncovered the fossil remains of a new species of ‘mososaur’, the first of its kind to have lived in fresh-water.
The team of paelontologists made the find in an open-pit mine in Western Hungary. Called Pannoniasaurus inexpectatus, the croc-like dinosaur would have roamed the freshwater river-ways that existed in the Upper Cretaceous period around 84 million years ago.
Looking much like a prehistoric version of the Loch Ness Monster, the new species had legs like a terrestrial lizard, a flattened crocodile-like skull, and a tail unlike other known members of the mosasaur family.
As it is the first of its kind not to live in the sea, the scientists believe it may have adapted to live in rivers in the same way as today’s fresh-water dolphins. The findings are published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.
"The evidence we provide here makes it clear that similar to some lineages of cetaceans [whales], mosasaurs quickly adapted to a variety of aquatic environments," says László Makádi, a paleontologist at the Hungarian Natural History Museum.
The team of paelontologists believe that the Pannoniasaurus would have been the top predator in the ecosystem which included fish, amphibians, lizards, crocodiles, turtles and other dinosaurs. Its relatively small teeth suggest it would have fed mostly on fish and perhaps amphibians and lizards.
"The size of Pannoniasaurus makes it the largest known predator in the waters of this paleo-environment," adds Makádi.
While a fully-grown Pannoniasaurus would have reached 20 feet in length, the team also uncovered juvenile specimens of the species, which are much rarer.
"We generally get the big guys," study co-author Michael Caldwell from the University of Alberta, told National Geographic.
"Finding young or even smaller-bodied versions is as rare as hen's teeth in the fossil record of mosasaurs."