Scientists discover 240-million-year-old ‘dragon’ fossil

Saturday, 24/02/2024, 17:00 (GMT+7)

On Friday, scientists at the National Museums Scotland (NMS) unveiled a 240-million-year-old 'dragon' fossil for the first time

The scientists revealed a 240-million-year-old 'dragon' fossil

According to a statement from the National Museums Scotland, the scientists depicted the entire 240-million-year-old 'dragon' fossil, known as Dinocephalosaurus orientalis.

 Scientists discover 240-million-year-old ‘dragon’ fossil 1
The scientists unveiled a 240-million-year-old 'dragon' fossil. Image: National Museums of Scotland

This revelation was made possible through the study of five newer specimens over a decade, supplementing the initial findings from 2003 when scientists first discovered the five-meter-long reptile from the Triassic period in China.

A 240-million-year-old 'dragon' fossil is curled around in a sort of figure of eight

The scientists also provided a detailed depiction of a five-meter-long creature, thanks to a perfectly preserved fossil that showcases the entire animal from head to tail.

Dr. Nick Fraser from National Museums Scotland told CNN, “It’s curled around in this sort of figure of eight and … it’s very reminiscent of a Chinese dragon.”

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The fossil exhibits a curled figure-of-eight shape, reminiscent of a Chinese dragon. Image: National Museums of Scotland

This fossil, described as resembling a Chinese dragon, has shed light on the mysterious reptile, with research findings published by an international team across Scotland, Germany, the USA, and China in the Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

According to the Scientists, they discovered that Dinocephalosaurus is characterized by its lengthy neck, composed of 32 vertebrae. Scientists speculate that this feature likely helped it catch fish among rocky crevices in marine environments.

Nick Fraser, who leads the Department of Natural Sciences at the National Museum of Scotland, said in a Friday news, "It is yet one more example of the weird and wonderful world of the Triassic that continues to baffle paleontologists" 

He emphasized that the distinctive and serpentine appearance of this creature, echoing the mythical Chinese Dragon, is certain to capture imaginations across the world.

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Dinocephalosaurus orientalis, a fossil resembling a 'dragon,' has been discovered by scientists. Image: National Museums of Scotland

The fossils were first discovered by Professor Li Chun.

In 2003, Professor Li Chun from the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology in Beijing was the first to uncover the fossils

Despite similarities to another ancient marine reptile, Tanystropheus hydroxides, the Dinocephalosaurus' unique physiology leaves its exact feeding behaviors and lifestyle as subjects of ongoing intrigue among paleontologists, who often rely on modern analogs to understand ancient life forms. 

However, as Dr. Fraser points out, some ancient creatures, including the Dinocephalosaurus and Tanystropheus, defy direct comparison to any living species today, highlighting the continuous mystery and fascination of paleontological research.