Paleontologists at the State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart find first fossil evidence of deadly predator attacks targeting the long necks of Tanystropheus. Many different lineages of prehistoric marine reptiles that lived before and during the Age of Dinosaurs possessed extremely long necks that were often more than twice the length of their body. For more than 200 years, paleontologists have speculated that these long necks of marine reptiles were vulnerable to attack by large predators, but they have been unable to find any fossils to support this idea.
Now, a team from the State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart, Germany has succeeded in confirming this assumption. Dr. Stephan Spiekman and Dr. Eudald Mujal, paleontologists at the State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart, examined two fossils of the 242-million-year-old Triassic marine reptile Tanystropheus. The necks in both of these reptiles are completely separated from the body and show bite marks from predators. This is the first clear evidence that these elongate necks, despite their evolutionary success in marine reptiles, were vulnerable. The scientists’ research is published today in the journal “Current Biology”.