This underwater “dragon” terrorized Japan's oceans as an apex predator!

This underwater “dragon” terrorized Japan's oceans as an apex predator!

Wakayama Soryu was a mosasaur who lived in ancient Japan (Takumi)

Wakayama Soryu was a mosasaur who lived in ancient Japan

(Takumi)

In ancient Japan, hidden among rustling pines and roaring rivers, lived a forgotten juggernaut. For 72 million years, its bones have remained buried in sandstone formations in Wakayama Prefecture, a silent testimony to a bygone era when giants of the deep ruled the waves. But in 2006, in the middle of the Aridagawa River, a whisper of this forgotten past tickled fate.

Akihiro Misaki, an unassuming paleontologist, was searching for the delicate spirals of ancient ammonites when his gaze stumbled upon a strange sheen in the sun-dappled rocks. Fascinated, he removed the clinging earth, his fingers tracing the outlines of a strange, dark shape. It was a vertebra, not from an ammonite, but from a far greater creature—the mosasaur, a long-vanished predator that once roamed the Cretaceous oceans with the swagger of a king.

However, this was no ordinary mosasaur. This was Wakayama Soryu, the “Blue Dragon”, named after the mythical beast and the cobalt waters that it once hunted. It was the most complete mosasaurus skeleton ever discovered in Japan, leaving a fascinating mystery in its wake.

Unlike other mosasaurs, Wakayama Soryu wore a crown of four fins, two in front and two in back, the latter even longer than its fearsome jaw. Its unusually long finned tail suggests a grace that belies its predatory prowess. Being morphologically unique, the Mosasaur defies this classification, and is a puzzle piece lost in the sands of time.

Takuya Konishi, an experienced mosasaur researcher, has dedicated his life to these ancient beasts. However, here was a creature that defied all his expectations. The swimming style that used four fins and a whip-like tail was unlike anything he had ever seen before. Dolphins, penguins, sea turtles, even mosasaurs and other plesiosaurs – none of them use four flippers combined with a tail fin in a way like the blue dragon.

“It's a question of how to use all five of these hydrodynamic surfaces,” Konishi points out, referring to the creature's four paddle fins and tail fin. “Which ones were for steering? Which ones were for propulsion? It opens a whole can of worms that challenges our understanding of how mosasaurs swam.”

The mystery deepens with the revelation of a shark-like dorsal fin on the ancient beast. Konishi hypothesized that it aids in quick turns when a predator chases its prey in the water. Meanwhile, the large front flippers probably aided in rapid maneuvering, the rear flippers in diving or surfacing, and its massive tail gave it strong acceleration while swimming.

The sample was finally given a title Megapterygius wakayaminsi After the area from which it was discovered. Megapterygius translates to “large-winged”, a reference to its huge fins.

The tale of the Blue Dragon is a story of triumph and tragedy. He roamed a shared universe with Tyrannosaurus rex, until an ill-fated asteroid put an end to the predators' saga. Wakayama Soryu is not just a fossil; It is a window into a lost world and a reminder that even in the depths of time, beauty and wonder can still be found.

The results of this research were published in Journal of Systematic Paleontology It can be accessed here.

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