CEN/Museo del Desierto
CEN/Museo del Desierto

A new species of plesiosaur has been presented, fossilised in amazingly good condition with some soft tissue even being preserved.

 

The fossil was discovered in Mexico in 2011 but scientists have only just presented their work to the world, showing off the 90 million year-old sea monster at a press conference.

 

The creature has been named Mauriciosaurs fernandezi, a tribute to engineer Mauricio Fernandez Garza, former mayor of the city of San Pedro Garza, in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, for his support of the palaeontologist’ project and who gave them fossils to be studied.

 

It is a polycotylid plesiosaur. Plesiosaurs lived in the oceans between 203.6 and 66 million years ago, contemporaneous with dinosaurs, and at up to 15 metres (49 ft 2 in) long were often the apex predator in their ecosystems.

 

The polycotylidae family of species had short necks and elongated bodies and existed from 99.5 to 66.5 million years ago.

 

The remains of Mauriciosaurs fernandezi were found in rocks in the town of Vallecillo, in Nuevo Leon.

 

Its preserved soft tissue is rare to find in fossils, making it valuable to scientists. The creature, found almost whole, was around 1.9 metres (6ft 2 in) long and 1.15 metres (3ft 9 in) wide, making it small for a plesiosaur.

 

It is believed that it is one of the best preserved plesiosaurs in Mexico and one of the most complete in the world.

 

Arturo Gonzalez-Gonzalez, director of the Desert Museum of Saltillo, in Mexico, who cooperated in the research, said that there were even remains of its last meal in its stomach.

 

Wolfgang Stinnesbeck, a palaeontologist from the University of Heidelberg who participated in the research, said during the presentation of the new species that Mexico needed stronger laws to protect paleontological and archaeological sites, as construction firms often destroyed important samples.