The Meyerasaurus -- which look similar to plesiosaurs -- was elegantly designed for swimming.
The mighty Meyerasaurus ruled the seas with its vast size, long neck, and razor-sharp teeth — and it swam like a penguin.
Meyerasaurus was a type of plesiosaur, or ocean-dwelling dinosaur, that lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Scientists were not sure exactly how the creature swam, but a new study may shed some light on that, according to a USA Today report.
New experiments detailed in a study published in PLOS Computation Biology indicate that the Meyerasaurus “flew” under water in much the same way penguins do.
Six scientists examined the Meyerasaurus victor using a mostly complete fossil in a German museum, and they created a digital version. Then, they ran a simulation to see how the creature most likely swam.
“Plesiosaur swimming has remained a mystery for almost 200 years, so it was exciting to see the plesiosaur come alive on the computer screen,” said Adam Smith, a paleontologist at Nottingham Natural History Museum. “Our results show that the front limbs provide the powerhouse for plesiosaur propulsion while the hind limbs are more passive.”
The simulations showed that the Meyerasaurus probably propelled itself with a rowing movement or hybrid stroke that looks like a cross between underwater flying and rowing. However, the fastest type of swim was an up and down flap with its flippers.
Scientists were surprised to find that the back flippers didn’t appear to do much at all, so they may have been used mostly as a rudder.
The plesiosaur lived for 135 million years and was thus very much adapted to its environment.
The study is unlikely to settle fierce debate on the issue, with some scientists still doubting that the back flippers are used solely for steering based on their large size. But it could certainly shed some light on the issue and lead to some new insights.