plésiosaure dans l'eau

Medical scan unveils mysteries of New Zealand’s extinct aquatic reptiles

The technological advances have affected medicine with the emergence of new treatment techniques including computed tomography. Recently, researchers have resorted to to a medical scanner to examine plesiosaur bones recovered in 1872 in New Zealand. These reptiles were discovered in the fossil record almost 200 million years ago and have disappeared.

During the study, the scans revealed another level of precision, which confirmed the presence of plesiosaurs mostly swimming upside down. This species is fine different from that of the Loch Ness creature. The devices also revealed a close relationship between New Zealand remains and those found in South America dating back 70 million years.

For this research project, Julius von Haast, the director of the Canterbury museum, called upon the Scottish Alexander McKay in 1872. Self-taught geologist, he carried out geological studies and recovered fossil remains.

Discoveries and confirmation of the past existence of plesiosaurs

Scientist McKay went to the Waipara in the winter of 1872, where he succeeded in collect incomplete and complete bones belonging to marine reptiles. Of them groups of compressed semi-spherical bones, rather banal, were found in this collection. These skeletons have remained in the warehouses of the Canterbury Museum for 120 years, without identification and locked in the rocks containing the remains of the excavation.

It was towards the end of the 1990s that scientists realized the importance of this vestige. Al Mannering, renowned museum preparer and fossil collector, prepared the two forgotten fossils with his collaborators. They had to remove the stones to reveal hidden bones in the rocks.

While in England, Arthur Cruickshank recognized the exceptional quality of the remains and their possible similarity with plesiosaurs encountered in South America. Besides him, Mannering and Norton Hiller came up with the same ideas in 2004. Aquatic reptile specialists then corroborated the nature of these specimens in 2014.

The results of medical CT scans

The two fossils were examined in hospital in 2019, using the latest dual-energy scanners at St George’s X-ray Center in Christchurch. After examination of the inner ear of the specimen, it was concluded that the beast took a certain position. Its head should usually be perpendicular to its body or just below.

In addition, a characteristic called “stirrup” has been observed, never seen before in a plesiosaur. Small bone lodged in the middle ear, stirrup is like an umbrella that can transmit vibrations of the eardrum to the inner ear.


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