A Monster of the Deep
By Shanuka Kadupitiyage Ceylon Today Features
When learning about all the interesting dinosaurs that walked the planet, it’s easy to get caught up on things and forget about the other amazing creatures that lived with them during those hundreds of millions of years ago.
Among them are a bunch of ancient reptiles that lived in the deep blue sea. While the dinosaurs ruled the land, these creatures dominated the deep. One group of these reptiles were the Sauropterygians, who existed on the planet from the Triassic period (over 200 million years ago) until the Late Cretaceous period (almost 100 million years ago).
One of the most interesting characteristics about these creatures is the fact that their feet had evolved to the point that they are more like flippers than actual feet like we see in modern reptiles. Which means that they would have been able to swim faster and with more ease than they would have without.
From big, to massive
While there were different kinds of sauropterygians, all of them would have ranged from three to 12 metres in length. Although not gigantic, these were truly massive creatures. While the smaller species lived in the shallow waters while the larger species such as the Kronosaurus lived in deeper waters.
At one time during their existence, The sauropterygians were the dominant predators in the sea, with hardly any other creature proving to be a competition for these marine reptiles. With no competition, the Sauropterygians thrived in the oceans of the Earth many hundreds of millions of years ago, becoming the apex predators of the seas. Palaeontologists believed that they hunted prey and maintained the role that killer whales (orca) play in the modern-day ocean environment.
Although they ruled the seas, much like the dinosaurs, these creatures also met their demise during the mass-extinction that happened during the end of the Cretaceous period, which is officially named as the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) or Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) extinction event. During this time period, nearly 80 per cent of living species at that time were said to have gone extinct. Not only that, all life on the planet underwent a tough period of recovery. You might have already heard of this event. It is said to have started because of a massive comet or asteroid that crashed on the Earth. There’s a lot we can learn about that event as well, but let’s leave that for another time.