Scientists solve 200-year-old mystery

An extinct marine reptile that looked very much like a dinosaur having mouthful of sharp teeth has since long baffled scientists. Now in a study researchers have finally found an answer to how this unique creature flew underwater.  According to study researchers, the extinct marine reptile was one of many kinds of plesiosaur, predatory reptiles that stalked the seas during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, while their cousins the dinosaurs ruled on land.  Scientists have always been trying to know how th

An extinct marine reptile that looked very much like a dinosaur having mouthful of sharp teeth has since long baffled scientists. Now in a study researchers have finally found an answer to how this unique creature flew underwater.

According to study researchers, the extinct marine reptile was one of many kinds of plesiosaur, predatory reptiles that stalked the seas during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, while their cousins the dinosaurs ruled on land.

Scientists have always been trying to know how these weird-looking creatures plied the waves. Now new experiments that were reported this week in PLOS Computational Biology experiments revealed that Meyerasaurus moved its flippers in such a way that it appeared as if it used to fly underwater, like sea turtles and penguins do today.

The team studied a species formally known as Meyerasaurus victor, a sort of Everyman animal with a body shape and neck length in the middle of the range for plesiosaurs.

Studying the perfectly complete Meyerasaurus fossil kept in German museum, the researchers built a digital version of the animal and ran computer simulations to divine the animal's most efficient swimming style.

The new computer model showed that Meyerasaurus could swim fastest if its basic motion was an up-and-down flap with its large flippers.

Co-author Greg Turk, a computer scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said, “Two paddles fast, four paddles faster-- that was my naïve thinking at the start of the study. But it turns out that it's the front limbs that seem to do all the work – at least for casual swimming”.