An elongated snout was not something that got in the way for Fuyuansaurus acutirostris, a protorosaur recently discovered in Fuyuan County of Yunnan Province, China. With this distinct snout and unusually long neck, it undulated through the eastern Tethys Ocean around 235 million years ago.
Paleontologists Nicolas C. Fraser, Olivier Rieppel, and Li Chun described the new species, unique among protorosaurs for its particularly long nose, in a paper recently published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. This protorosaur looked rather like a long-necked Brontosaurus with flippers.
Although the fossil was crushed, it still maintained part of the cervical and dorsal axial skeleton, the back two-thirds of the skull, and much of the pelvic and pectoral girdles. Unfortunately, the limbs and tail were missing. Luckily this protorosaur lived before turtleneck sweaters were in vogue, for its neck was longer than the trunk, similar to the tanystropheids — Middle Triassic reptiles for which complete fossil skeletons exist — in having 12 or 13 cervical vertebrae.
Protorosaurs were a motley crew of reptiles that swam in the region that is now Asia, Europe, and North America, during the latest Permian and early late Triassic periods. As predators, they sported a mouthful of needle-like teeth, implying that they dined on fish and crustaceans. All protorosaurs had long necks and elongated vertebrae.
Fraser, who led the study, noted a unique quality of Fuyuansaurus acutirostris. “The new form represents one more protorosaur within the Xingyi Fauna that exhibits some quite unexpected departures from the typical suite of protorosaurian characters.”
The genus name of this newly found protorosaur, Fuyuansaurus, derives from the locality where it was discovered. The species name, acutirostris, signifies the elongate preorbital region of the skull. This discovery adds to the growing diversity of protorosaurs discovered during the Middle Triassic epoch in southern China.
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