Since its complete skeleton was discovered in 1824, marine scientists had been working to resolve how extinct dinosaur-era marine reptiles known as plesiosaurs navigated the deep ocean, where they preyed on other marine creatures for survival.
In a recent study published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology, Greg Turk of Georgia Institute of Technology and Adam Smith, a paleontologist from Nottingham Natural History Museum, designed computer simulations that enabled them to figure out just how the plesiosaur swam in water.
A large marine predator with four flippers, the scientists agree that plesiosaurs must have navigated waters by flapping its two front flippers underwater just like a penguin would do if it were in flight, and the two rear flippers must have been used for stability and to steer the course of the plesiosaurs.
Plesiosaurs ruled the waters 135 million years ago when dinosaurs ruled the land, but scientists had always wanted to know how they swarm; now, computer simulations have revealed the creatures used their front flippers to flap for movement in water while using their rear flippers to stabilize their position and steer around.
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"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 Smith. He added: "Our results show that the front limbs provide the powerhouse for plesiosaur propulsion while the hind limbs are more passive."