Monday, November 21, 2005

Prehistoric Lizard Called Historic Link

Amateur fossil hunter Van Turner felt certain he had found something important during his search of earth turned up by bulldozers making way for a new subdivision in Dallas County.

Sixteen years later, scientists finally confirmed that Turner had discovered the first well preserved early mosasaur found in North America — a prehistoric lizard that lived 92 million years ago that evolved into what some call the "T. Rex of the ocean."

"Science marches slowly, and my biggest fear all along has been that another specimen of the same animal would be found, and it would be described, and I would lose any first claim to it," said Turner, an Internet technology manager in the Central Texas town of Mason. "That never happened, and it kind of reassured the rarity of the animal."

The reptile, now known as Dallasaurus turneri, is identified in a special issue of the Netherlands Journal of Geosciences published this month. The article was written by paleontologists Michael Polcyn of Southern Methodist University and Gordon Bell Jr. of Guadalupe National Park.

The lizard is an important link in the evolution of mosasaurs, which lived in the age of dinosaurs and evolved fin-like limbs, Polcyn said. Dallasaurus, the name given the fossil by Polcyn and Bell, is unusual because it shows an earlier version of the mosasaur with tiny feet and hands. The marine animals later developed paddles.

Read the rest here.

Getting caught up on old news while I was away.

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