1232 GMT September 18, 2019
Paleontologists named the newly examined species Lagenanectes richterae, a reference to the medieval Germanic name for the Leine River and Annette Richter, the natural sciences curator at the Lower Saxony State Museum, UPI wrote.
Richter was key is making the study of the ancient reptilian remains possible.
During the early Cretaceous, as dinosaurs ruled the land, plesiosaurs, long-necked aquatic reptiles resembling the iconic Loch Ness monster, dominated the seas.
Sven Sachs, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in Bielefeld, Germany, said, "It was an honor to be asked to research the mysterious Sarstedt plesiosaur skeleton.
“It has been one of the hidden jewels of the museum, and even more importantly, has turned out to be new to science."
Researchers analyzed the species' skull, teeth, vertebrae and ribs, as well the remains of the reptile's unique flipper-like limbs.
They found evidence of a chronic bacterial infection, which may have eventually proved fatal to the sea monster.
The analysis also helped researchers determine how the reptile likely hunted.
Jahn Hornung, a paleontologist based in Hamburg, said, "The jaws had some especially unusual features.
“Its broad chin was expanded into a massive jutting crest, and its lower teeth stuck out sideways. These probably served to trap small fish and squid that were then swallowed whole."
Researchers believe Lagenanectes richterae belonged to Elasmosauridae, a family of plesiosaurs. Elasmosaurs had the longest necks of all plesiosaurs.
Benjamin Kear, a researcher with the Museum of Evolution at Uppsala University in Sweden, said, "The most important aspect of this new plesiosaur is that it is amongst the oldest of its kind.
“It is one of the earliest elasmosaurs, an extremely successful group of globally distributed plesiosaurs that seem to have had their evolutionary origins in the seas that once inundated Western Europe."
Researchers shared their work in a new paper published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.