November 11, 2005 | David F. Coppedge

Sea Monsters Were For Real

A large fossil crocodile-like sea monster with a bullet-shaped snout has been reported in Science.1  See MSNBC News for a summary.  For an artistic rendering of what Dakosaurus andiniensis might have looked like, see National Geographic News, which states that the discovery will be the December cover story of their magazine.  Dubbed “Godzilla” by its discoverers, it would have looked pretty scary to seafaring sailors, but according to the evolutionary scheme of things, of course, the two would never have met.  The creature died out 135 million years ago on the evolutionary timeline.  So, then, what did ancient mariners see at sea?

1News reports said this discovery was to be reported in the Nov. 11 issue of Science, but it does not appear in the Table of Contents.  Perhaps publication was delayed.

We get excited about the big finds, but the fossil record is full of extinct creatures of all sizes and shapes.  Our world is species-poor compared to the diversity of creatures that have inhabited this planet’s lands and seas, as revealed in the fossil record.  Was this a missing link?  Apparently not; one researcher said, “This [animal] forms a very distinct lineage that appears early on in the evolutionary history of crocodiles—invading the sea and showing outstanding adaptation to the marine environment.” (Emphasis added in all quotes.)  He also said that it represents “the most drastic evolutionary change in the history of marine crocodiles.”  They are not even quite sure how to classify the creature.  There appear to be more questions than answers: NG News said, “The researchers don’t yet know what events triggered the relatively sudden emergence of Dakosaurus, nor do they know what caused it to go extinct.”  Like ichthyosaurs, then, the creature appeared suddenly in the record, flourished for a time, and just as suddenly vanished (see 04/20/2005 story).  What a world.

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Categories: Amazing Facts, Fossils

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