Paleontologists have found in Russia the remains of a marine reptile the size of a bus

© Andrey Atuchin, 2017Царь of the river ITIL, fish-eating pliosaur the size of a bus that was found near UlyanovskPaleontologists have found in Russia the remains of a marine reptile the size of a bus© Andrey Atuchin, 2017

Scientists have found in Ulyanovsk region remains unusually large sea reptiles, similar in its appearance to a giant Dolphin that has dramatically changed scientists ‘ ideas about the lives and ecology of these giants, according to a paper published in the journal Current Biology.

«Muzzle that reptile was unusually narrow and thin, and more like its anatomy, the jaws of the dolphins or crocodiles-Garalov eating fish than the mouth of other pliosaurs. This is the most unusual feature of these animals, which suggests that pliosaurs could take a wider range of ecological niches than we previously thought,» — says Valentin Fischer of the University of Liege (Belgium).

Pliosaurs large marine predators of the Cretaceous and Jurassic time periods were widespread in the oceans and seas of ancient Earth. Their body length can reach 15 meters, and a weight of several tens tons, and in form they resembled modern crocodiles.

A great strength of their jaws allow them to hunt any prey, including small ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and giant fish leedsichthys (Leedsichtys) length of 20-25 meters. The largest pliosaurs, the so-called «predator x», Pliosaurus funkei, is able to swallow people whole, could reach lengths of 10-13 meters and weight of several dozen tons.

Fisher and his colleagues conducted excavations on the banks of the Volga river near the village of Shale Mine, located 20 kilometers from Ulyanovsk. Here, as the scientists tell, there are rocks, formed about 130 million years ago in the early Cretaceous period.

At that time Europe was divided into a set of many Islands, separated from each other small and shallow Straits. Russia and Scandinavia at the time were a fairly large island, which was dominated by the arid climate and associated steppes and semi-deserts. Sources of fresh water, apparently, that was not enough, and many bodies of water in particularly hot periods, dry out, becoming very salty and oxygen-free puddles.

In the deposits formed in these Straits and seas, scientists have been able to find the remains of an unusual pliosaur is the size of a bus and with a skull length of 1.5 meters, it is absolutely not similar to all the other members of this family of marine reptiles. Scientists have named it Luskhan itilensis, which means «Lord of the waters of ITIL» (Volga) Tatar and other Turkic languages.

The main unusual feature of the «ITIL-Khan» was its snout and jaws – they were not at all similar to what is usually arranged in the head of other pliosaurs. The skull and jaw Luskhan itilensis, as they say scientists, more like the same part of the body have very different marine reptiles of the age of dinosaurs, the plesiosaurs and modern river dolphins and Garalov.

All these inhabitants of the seas and rivers have one thing in common – they do not eat meat of other large marine animals, and relatively small fish which they capture with their «sharp» and thin jaws. Accordingly, we can say that pliosaurs could not be only «top predators» of his time, but also to occupy other ecological niches. It is, as scientists believe, could help them to survive mass extinction of species on the border of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, and almost to live to see the extinction of all dinosaurs and other reptiles of the Mesozoic, 65.5 million years ago.