'Loch Ness Monster' had arthritis -- poor old lady pliosaur

loch-ness-monster-has-arthritis-judyth-sassoonYes, the Loch Ness Monster is a girl. At least the pliosaur that scientists been studying. This not-so-wee beastie resembles a thick necked Nessie, developed arthritis in her old age, proving that ancient creatures were prone to age-related illnesses just like we are.

This venerable old gal stretched 26 feet and had a 10-foot-long, crocodile-like head, short neck, whale-like body and four flippers. "This pliosaur, like many of its relatives, was truly huge," vertebrate paleontologist Michael Benton at the University of Bristol in England, tells LiveScience. "To stand beside its skull and realize that it is 3 meters long, and massive and heavy as it is, that it once functioned with muscles and blood vessels and nerves, is amazing. You can lie down inside its mouth."

No thanks. Lady Nessie also has 8 inch long teeth. She would normally be able to chow down on other Mesozoic creatures, but with that pesky arthritis, it would have been a lot tougher. This is the first time arthritis has been found in an animal from that period.

Lady Nessie would have lived in southern England, though back then, it was covered with warm and shallow seas. "Imagine the Mediterranean or Florida," Benton says.

"To see the jaws distorted out of place substantially enough that the front tips of the jaws overlapped, and the lower teeth made definite holes in the upper jaw, 5 centimeters (2 inches) off to the side, and that it lived with this agonizing pain for so long, evidently still managing to feed, is quite impressive," Benton explains. "This was an old, weather-beaten animal when it died."
Photo/Video credit: Simon Powell/LiveScience