A reanalysis of a heavily damaged fossil found nearly 150 years ago has revealed the existence of an absolute monster of the ancient seas.
And the discovery of the new species, nicknamed the “Melksham Monster,” shows that an extinct group of ancient reptiles appeared on Earth millions of years earlier than previously thought.
Prior to this discovery, scientists thought that the sub-family of prehistoric crocodiles to which this creature belonged, Geosaurini, emerged around 152 million years ago.
But a reanalysis of this fossil shows that this group arose millions of years earlier, during the Middle Jurassic.
The new species, as described in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, featured long, powerful jaws and large serrated teeth which it likely used to chomp down on various prey, including prehistoric squid.
Leldraan melkshamensis, which prowled the warm, shallow seas of what is now Europe, would have been one of the top aquatic predators of Jurassic Britain.