New species of ancient marine reptile is the oldest of its kind

a plesiosaur skeleton that had been sitting in a German museum for more than 50 years, as a new investigation discovered that not only did the bones belong to a new species, but the animal was the oldest of its kind.

Discovered in a clay pit in Sarstedt, Germany, back in 1964, the bones had been part of a collection at the Lower Saxony State Museum in Hannover for decades. The skeleton included most of the skull, some vertebrae, ribs and bones from the creature's flippers, making it clear that they belonged to some kind of plesiosaur, a group of marine reptiles that lived alongside the dinosaurs.

The museum recently invited scientists to study the specimen, and the team found that it was a new species, that belonged to the elasmosaur family. One of the largest types of plesiosaur, elasmosaurs were also known to have the longest necks of any known vertebrates, containing up to 75 individual neck vertebrae in some species. While not all of this specimen's neck bones were accounted for, it's estimated to have had 40 or 50 vertebrae, making the entire creature some 8 m (26 ft) long.

The researchers dubbed the new species Lagenanectes richterae. The first part of the name translates to "Lagena swimmer," after the medieval name for a river near where the bones were found. The second part is a tribute to the Chief Curator at the museum housing the skeleton, Annette Richter.
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The elasmosaurs (family Elasmosauridae) have been found all over the world in the Cretaceous. This huge specimen was found in the Lower Cretaceous, making it one of the oldest known.