Australia was once home to ancient reptiles that swam in huge icy
lakes, fossil evidence suggests.
The large, carnivorous reptiles lived 115 million years ago,
during the age of the dinosaurs, when much of the continent was
covered in water.
Fossils of two new species of plesiosaur were discovered near
Coober Pedy in South Australia.
Plesiosaurs, famed for their long necks, are said to resemble
Scotland's mythical Loch Ness monster.
The Australian specimens are described in recent editions of the
journals Biology Letters and Palaeontology.
One, known as Umoonasaurus demoscyllus, was about 2.4m (7.2ft)
long and had crests on its head, perhaps for display or mating
"Imagine a compact body with four flippers, a reasonably long
neck, small head and short tail, much like a reptilian seal," said
the lead author of the two papers, Dr Benjamin Kear of the
University of Adelaide.
The other species, Opallionectes andamookaensis, grew to about 5m
(16ft) in length and had small needle-like teeth.
Some 30 fossils were discovered at an opal mine near the outback
mining town of Coober Pedy.