International news media highlighted research by University of Cincinnati biology professor Takuya Konishi, who will present his findings at this month's Society of Vertebrate Paleontology conference.
Konishi theorizes that some prehistoric sea creatures called mosasaurs might have subdued their prey by ramming them with their bony snouts like killer whales do today.
In a study published this month in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, Konishi examined skull fragments of a baby mosasaur found in Kansas in 1991 and used his experience and other fossil examples to identify it as a Tylosaurus, the largest known mosasaur species. Unlike other species, Tylosaurus had a protruding bony snout. But the baby's snout was blunted and not nearly as prominent.
Konishi speculated that this feature, called a rostrum, becomes more pronounced as the marine reptile ages. He likened it to the "ugly duckling" that grows into the graceful swan, a notion that caught on with BBC News, which called it the "ugly duckling fossil from the deep."
Smithsonian Magazine called it "a case of mistaken sea monster identity."
FOX News called the discovery an "85 million-year-old sea monster."
United Press International, or UPI, quoted UC's Konishi on his moment of discovery when he realized what he was looking at.
"Having looked at the specimen in 2004 for the first time myself, it took me nearly 10 years to think out of that box and realize what it was – a baby Tylosaurus yet to develop that snout," Konishi said.
Europa Press in Madrid, Spain, highlighted the discovery of the smallest baby mosasaur ever found.
Read more about his discovery in UC News.
By Michael Miller
Photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services