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The age of dinosaurs still presents a trove of unsolved mysteries. Yet, one puzzle is solved: plesiosaurs swam much like penguins do, using their front flippers to fly through the water and their rear flippers for direction and steering.
The computer models based on carefully selected data on one of the plesiosaurs species found in Germany, Meyerasaurus, ended a centuries old debate on how the large marine reptiles could have propelled their bodies through the water. The computer models simulated several swimming techniques for the plesiosaurs species and pushed forth the best computation: Meyerasaurus swam in a similar style to that of penguins.
Plesiosaurs are a remarkable group of marine reptiles. In their times, they would have dominated the marine environment as the large predatory creatures reached tens of feet in length. Moreover, plesiosaurs species span 135 million years of evolution and lineages.
With this remarkable presence, one detail was missing. How did they swim? For over 200 years, the debate has been ongoing. Now, the puzzle is solved: plesiosaurs swam much like penguins do. The ancient marine reptiles are easily recognizable by their long necks and bodies and the four large flippers.
While there’s no other creature alive today bearing resemblance to the ancient marine reptiles, you might say representations of the mythical Loch Ness Monster or Nessie are close to depicting a plesiosaurs species.
Who knows if the ancient marine reptiles aren’t the ancestors of the Loch Ness Monster? Perhaps one day this mystery will be unravelled too. Until then, praise the work of the scientific team with the Wollaton Hall Nottingham Natural History Museum. They were behind the computer models and computer simulations revealing the way Meyerasaurus would have swam – as penguins do.
With all the anatomical data at hand, the computer simulations depicted the best swimming strategy. Thus, plesiosaurs species and for certain Meyerasaurus, would have flapped the front flippers as penguins do to create that smooth underwater ‘flight’ motion. The rear flippers were shown to add no propelling value or speed to the swimming technique. Rather, the rear flippers were used to ensure the ancient reptiles’ stability and steer the way.
Previous to this research, the debate has brought about several hypothesis on the way the plesiosaurs swam. Some scientists hypothesized that plesiosaurs species would have rowed through the water using both their front flippers and their rear flippers.
But plesiosaurs seem to be unique in their swimming technique. Unlike large marine creatures known today, whales for instance, they didn’t use the rear flippers to create thrust. The findings and in depth information can be found in the article published in the PLOS Computational Biology.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia