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Scientists unveil 240-million-year-old reptile likened to 'Chinese dragon'

Scientists unveil 240-million-year-old reptile likened to 'Chinese dragon'

The Triassic period creature had 32 separate neck vertebrae, flippered limbs and, with well preserved fish found in its stomach region, was thought to be very well adapted to ocean life.

A 240-million-year-old marine reptile with an extraordinarily long neck - likened to a "Chinese dragon" - has been depicted in full for the first time.

The Dinocephalosaurus orientalis fossils were first discovered in Guizhou province in southern China in 2003.

After finding other, more complete specimens, scientists have now been able to present a full depiction of the creature.

The dinosaur, which lived during the Triassic period, had 32 separate neck vertebrae, and flippered limbs.

A team of international researchers found well preserved fish in its stomach region, suggesting it was very well adapted to ocean life.

Nick Fraser, from National Museums Scotland, who was part of the international team that studied the fossil, said: "This discovery allows us to see this remarkable long-necked animal in full for the very first time.

"It is yet one more example of the weird and wonderful world of the Triassic that continues to baffle palaeontologists.

"We are certain that it will capture imaginations across the globe due to its striking appearance, reminiscent of the long and snake-like mythical Chinese dragon."

The long neck of Dinocephalosaurus orientalis has drawn comparison with the neck of Tanystropheus hydroides, another marine reptile from the Middle Triassic period of both Europe and China.

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Both reptiles were of similar size and have several features of the skull in common, however Dinocephalosaurus has many more vertebrae both in the neck and in the torso, making it look much more like a snake.

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