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University of Alberta researchers uncover new fossil species in Italy

An illustration of the new species Primitivus manduriensis is shown in its marine environment in this undated handout illustration. .
An illustration of the new species Primitivus manduriensis is shown in its marine environment in this undated handout illustration. . Credit: Fabio Manucci

University of Alberta researchers have discovered a new species of ancient underwater lizards.

The metre-long predator ate fish up to 75 million years ago in waters that once covered what is now southern Italy.

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The fossil is so well preserved that scientists can examine its scales and muscle tissue. They can even see its lunch — a tiny fish skeleton is preserved in its belly.

The Primitivus manduriensis dinosaur.
The Primitivus manduriensis dinosaur. Supplied

Ilaria Paparella, PhD student and lead author on the study, said the dolichosaur has been named Primitivus manduriensis after the local wine in Pugila, where the fossil was found.

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“They are essentially, small, long-bodied animals that look like regular lizards with longer necks and tails,” explained Paparella. “They have paddle-like hands and feet for swimming, but could also move on land.”

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The University of Alberta said the fossil is significantly younger than other, existing specimens from the group — extending the time range of their existence by about 15 million years.