An ancient marine reptile that resembles depictions of the fabled Loch Ness Monster suffered from arthritis in their jaws, scientists are now saying.
The extinct Loch Ness-like creatures, known as pliosaurs, would have been quite the terror in the seas, even in a prehistoric age filled with all sorts of gargantuan creatures. However, the ancient Loch Ness Monster’s huge, normally powerful jaw became significantly less strong as the pliosaurs succumbed to old age.
“This pliosaur, like many of its relatives, was truly huge,” Michael Benton, a paleontologist at the University of Bristol, told LiveScience. “To stand beside its skull and realize that it is 3 meters long, and massive and heavy as it is, that it once functioned with muscles and blood vessels and nerves, is amazing. You can lie down inside its mouth.”
Scientists came to the conclusion that the ancient Loch Ness creatures developed arthritis in their jaws, as well as other age-related diseases, after examining an old fossil of a 26-foot long (with a head roughly 10 feet long) female pliosaur. Researchers noticed that the female’s left jaw joint had eroded, along with several other clues that pointed at the degenerative disease.
“In the same way that aging humans develop arthritic hips, this old lady developed an arthritic jaw and survived with her disability for some time,” researcher Judyth Sassoon told LiveScience.. “But an unhealed fracture on the jaw indicates that at some time the jaw weakened and eventually broke.”