Like the giant tooth shark, the dragon may be one of the fiercest marine predators in prehistoric times,media New Atlas reported. A previously unknown reptile has now been classified as a crocodile-like nasal cavity that may allow it to catch prey missed by other animals.
Named Gavialimimus almaghribensis, the creature lived between 72 and 66 million years ago in the waters around what is now Morocco. Not long ago, a 1-meter-long skull fossil, along with other bones, was found in a phosphate mine in the country.
Based on the analysis of these fossils, an international team of palaeontologists recently determined that Gavialimimus is actually a unique dragon. There are also more than a dozen other types of reptiles living in the same area, some as long as 17 meters long.
Gavialimimus’s most striking feature is its long, narrow nose, staggered upper and lower teeth. Crocodiles have similar noses.
According to lead scientist Catie Strong, a master’s student in palaeontology at the University of Alberta in Canada, this feature may allow it to compete with other predators for food.
“This dragon is likely to adapt to a particular form of prednising, or lichi zoning, in this larger ecosystem, ” she said. “For some species, these adaptations may be outstanding, such as the very long noses and interlenged teeth in Gavialimimus, which we assume will help it catch fast-moving prey.”
Strong conducted the study under the guidance of Professor Michael Caldwell of the University of Alberta and collaborated with researchers at the University of Cincinnati and Flinders University in Australia.