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Last Updated: Monday, 12 December 2005, 08:38 GMT
Plesiosaur fossil sold at auction
Nessie eye, BBC
In all likelihood. plesiosaurs no longer roam Loch Ness
The fossil of an air-breathing marine reptile that inhabited the oceans about 205m years ago, when dinosaurs still existed, is to be auctioned off.

The plesiosaur, which means "near reptile", has a prominent small head on a long neck and a round body.

The fossil is the first skeleton of the reptile to be sold on the open market.

Unearthed in Lyme Regis, Dorset, about 20 years ago, the creature is thought to be "the most popular explanation for the mythical Loch Ness monster".

The first well-preserved fish-eating plesiosaur fossil was discovered in the county in 1824, by fossil collector Mary Anning.

Snapping jaws

The creatures, which would have been 5-6m in length and about a tonne in weight, thrust themselves through the water with four flippers and steered with their tail.

They had sharp teeth and snapping jaws, which set a deadly trap for small aquatic animals.

Plesiosaurs were thought to have caught their prey by lashing out with their long necks and then snatching at victims with sharp teeth.

They were thought to be hunters of fish, squid and other free-swimming prey; but recent research has also indicated they would feed on bottom-dwelling animals such as clams and snails, too.

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