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New type of 'highly unusual' reptile found

Press Association logoPress Association 25/05/2017 John von Radowitz

A new species of "highly unusual" extinct flippered reptile the size of a small bus has been discovered in Russia.

The pilosaur Luskhan itilensis was related to top predators that swam the oceans during the age of the dinosaurs.

But unlike its cousins which had massive and powerful toothed jaws, the Luskhan snout was long and slender.

In appearance its beak-like "rostrum" resembled that of present day fish-eaters such as the gharial crocodile or some river dolphins.

"This is the most striking feature, as it suggests that pilosaurs colonised a much wider range of ecological niches than previously assumed, Dr Valentin Fischer, from the University of Liege in Belgium, whose team described the find in the journal Current Biology, said.

A 1.5 metre-long skull of one of the animals was unearthed from the right bank of the Volga river near the Russian city of Ulyanovsk.

The scientists estimate that the whole creature would have measured about 6.5 metres.

Pilosaurs were a type of plesiosaur, marine reptiles whose feet had evolved into four large flippers.

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