Friday, January 19, 2007

For Friday Relaxation - Two-Headed Monster Lizards?

Scientists have unearthed the fossil of a young, two-headed marine reptile that lived when dinosaurs still walked the Earth.

“My first reaction when I saw that fossil was of the ‘Oh my God!’ type,” said lead researcher Eric Buffetaut of the Center for National Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris, France. “It’s something you would not really expect to see, because the chances of such a freak being fossilized are so slim.”

The discovery, detailed in of the Feb. 22 issue of the journal Biology Letters, marks the earliest known occurrence of a well-known birth defect, called axial bifurcation, in living reptiles. This double-noggin phenomenon occurs when an embryo is damaged and some body parts develop twice.

Buffetaut and his colleagues uncovered the remains [image] in the Yixian Formation in northeastern China, a rich fossil deposit famous for its treasure trove of feathered dinosaur and early bird remains. The creature, called Hyphalosaurus lingyuanensis, died at a young age during the Cretaceous period 120 million years ago, during the twilight of the dinosaur’s reign.

While a reptile, Hyphalosaurus was not a dinosaur. Instead, it belonged to a diverse group of primitive aquatic and semi-aquatic creatures called choristoderes. Some choristoderes looked like lizards or crocodiles, while others resembled miniature versions of plesiosaurs, ancient marine reptiles with barrel-shaped bodies, short tails, paddle-like limbs and, in some cases, long serpentine necks--somewhat like the mythical Loch Ness monster.

We Japanese science-fiction fans always knew it would be true! All we need is one more head and we have the newborn version of Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster! Oh happy day! This poor little critter probably lost in a fight with Baby Godzilla – hence the flattened condition of the fossil. The King of the Monsters, Godzilla himself, is probably reading this article at home in the Pacific depths somewhere. Long may he stomp.