Scientists announce discovery of ‘very strange Chinese dragon’ fossil

The animal had 32 neck bones.

Scientists in Scotland have introduced a “very strange” 240 million-year-old “Chinese dragon” fossil that was discovered in southern China 10 years ago.

>> Read more trending news

An international team from National Museums Scotland revealed the fossil of a Dinocephalosaurus orientalis, a 5-meter-long aquatic reptile from the Triassic period.

Scientists say the reptile’s fossil showed the animal had flippered limbs and “exquisitely preserved” fish in its stomach region.

The creature’s long neck is what’s striking many who have seen photos of the fossil.

“With 32 separate neck vertebrae Dinocephalosaurus orientalis had an extraordinarily long neck that draws comparison with that of Tanystropheus hydroides, another strange marine reptile from the Middle Triassic of both Europe and China,” scientists said announcing the discovery.

“Both reptiles were of similar size and have several features of the skull in common, including a fish-trap type of dentition,” officials continued. “However, Dinocephalosaurus is unique in possessing many more vertebrae both in the neck and in the torso, giving the animal a much more snake-like appearance.”

An international team of researchers from Scotland, Germany, the United States and China studied the fossil at the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology in Beijing but made their announcement public on Friday.

Professor Li Chun from the institute said, “This has been an international effort. Working together with colleagues from the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Europe, we used newly discovered specimens housed at the Chinese Academy of Sciences to build on our existing knowledge of this animal.

“Among all of the extraordinary finds we have made in the Triassic of Guizhou Province, Dinocephalosaurus probably stands out as the most remarkable,” he added.