Seabed scene, Luoping, 245 million years ago. The nothosaur, Lariosaurus, prowls along the sea floor. The reconstruction scene is based on the tracks, and the researchers' identification of the most likely trackmaker, as well as an interpretation of a likely function.
© Brian Choo, 2014
Seabed scene, Luoping, 245 million years ago. The nothosaur, Lariosaurus, prowls along the sea floor. The reconstruction scene is based on the tracks, and the researchers' identification of the most likely trackmaker, as well as an interpretation of a likely function. © Brian Choo, 2014

Scientists track down paddling dinosaurs

EVER wondered how the ancient marine reptiles like the plesiosaur used those awesome flippers?

Scientists published in the Nature Communications journal have the answer, thanks to sets of fossilised footprints - er, flipperprints - found in China.

The study, by scientists in China, the UK  and Australia, say they tracks created by the paddles of nothosaurs showed they aort of "rowed", with both forelimbs moving together.

Research leader Professor Qiyue Zhang  from the Chengdu Centre of China Geological Survey, said: "We interpret the tracks as foraging trails.  The nothosaur was a predator, and this was a smart way to feed.  As its paddles  scooped out the soft mud, they probably disturbed fishes and shrimps, which it snapped up with needle-sharp teeth."

The study's abstract says: "The seas of the Mesozoic (266-66 million years ago) were remarkable for predatory marine reptiles, but their modes of locomotion have been debated. One problem has been the absence of tracks, although there is no reason to expect that swimmers would produce tracks.

"We report here seabed tracks made by Mesozoic marine reptiles, produced by the paddles of nothosaurs (Reptilia, Sauropterygia) in the Middle Triassic of the Luoping localities in Yunnan, southwestern China.

"These show that the track-making nothosaurs used their forelimbs for propulsion, they generally rowed (both forelimbs operating in unison rather than alternately), and the forelimb entered medially, dug in as the paddle tip gained purchase, and withdrew cleanly.

"These inferences may provide evidence for swimming modes, or it could be argued that the locomotory modes indicated by the tracks were restricted to such contact propulsion. Such punting behaviour may have been used to flush prey from the bottom muds."


What dinosaur are you? Play the game and find out


Get lost in the past with our dinosaur cards


ARE you mad for dinosaurs? Do you know your Brachiosaurus from your Brontosaurus, your Pteranodon from your Triceratops?

If you have a T-Rex at home chasing an Ankylosaurus around the lounge then we have just the treat for you!

APN Australian Regional Media's Dinosaur Collector Card series is shaping up to be the next best thing - cooler than the Nigersaurus and its 500 teeth or even the mighty Diamantinasaurus, Queensland's own prehistoric beast.

And you don't have to be the Flintstones to enjoy this exciting blast from the past.

With 40 cards to collect you can take a journey through yesteryear with us and get lost in the world of the unbelievable.

There are hundreds of interesting facts to peruse and beautiful artistic representations that will make learning so much fun for your kids.

Hidden in 200 cards is the opportunity to win an amazingly life-like T-Rex figurine instantly and there are also special entry invitations into the second-chance draw which features must-have dinosaur packs valued at $98.95 each.

Want more? Well you can hop onto our interactive prehistoric playtime site for more dino pleasure - discover your dinosaur name, design your own dinosaur or try to get past their sharp teeth and claws in our exciting dodge the dinosaur game.

All you have to do is redeem a token from this paper and exchange it for a set of two cards from participating newsagents.

The Dinosaur Collector Card series runs from Saturday, May 17 with the final cards available on Saturday, June 21. Collect them, swop them, and have fun doing it. Let's hear that dino roar!

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