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An ancient reptile with a neck that was nearly twice the size of most giraffe necks may have lived in the sea, and not on land as previously thought.

The creature called Tanystropheus lived 240 million years ago and since its discovery scientists have debated whether the reptile lived on land or under water.

Its "bizarre body didn't make things clear one way or the other", they said.

The latest findings published in the journal Current Biology are thanks to a digital reconstruction of the crushed skull of the creature, which scientists say show "several very clear adaptations for life in water".

Researchers estimate that Tanystropheus's neck was 10ft long, three times bigger than its body, and nearly twice the size of most giraffe necks.

But scientists say there are similarities between the two animals because the reptile's neck has so few bones just like a giraffe, which only has seven neck bones.

Tanystropheus had 13 long neck bones called vertebrae, meaning the creature's neck wasn't very bendy.

Stephan Spiekman, a palaeontologist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland and lead author on the study, said: "It likely hunted by stealthily approaching its prey in murky water using its small head and very long neck to remain hidden."

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