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Pliosaur neurovascular system suggests special sensory receptors

From: Ben Creisler

A new online paper:

Davide Foffa, Judyth Sassoon, Andrew R. Cuff, Mark N. Mavrogordato &
Michael J. Benton (2014)
Complex rostral neurovascular system in a giant pliosaur.
Naturwissenschaften (advance online publication)
DOI: 10.1007/s00114-014-1173-3

Pliosaurs were a long-lived, ubiquitous group of Mesozoic marine
predators attaining large body sizes (up to 12 m). Despite much being
known about their ecology and behaviour, the mechanisms they adopted
for prey detection have been poorly investigated and represent a
mystery to date. Complex neurovascular systems in many vertebrate
rostra have evolved for prey detection. However, information on the
occurrence of such systems in fossil taxa is extremely limited because
of poor preservation potential. The neurovascular complex from the
snout of an exceptionally well-preserved pliosaur from the
Kimmeridgian (Late Jurassic, c. 170 Myr ago) of Weymouth Bay (Dorset,
UK) is described here for the first time. Using computed tomography
(CT) scans, the extensive bifurcating neurovascular channels could be
traced through the rostrum to both the teeth and the foramina on the
dorsal and lateral surface of the snout. The structures on the surface
of the skull and the high concentrations of peripheral rami suggest
that this could be a sensory system, perhaps similar to crocodile
pressure receptors or shark electroreceptors.