Chinese dragon fossil discovered.

NPR, among other outlets, has reported on the discovery of a real Chinese dragon in this, the Year of the Dragon. At least, it’s certainly the remarkably complete fossil of a creature that fits the description: an aquatic reptile with a long, sinuous body and winding neck that ruled the Asian waterways millennia before the Jurassic era:

The fossil of the Dinocephalosaurus orientalis dates back 240 million years to the Triassic period and was found in the Guizhou Province of southern China.

While the reptile was first identified in 2003, this latest discovery is more complete — about 16 feet long — and allowed the scientists to depict the strange, prehistoric creature in full for the first time.

Professor Li Chun from the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology said the find has been an international effort — the researchers behind the discovery are from Scotland, Germany, America and China.

The team studied the bizarre reptile at the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology in Beijing. Its flippered limbs and exquisitely preserved fish in its stomach indicate the reptile was adapted to the ocean, the researchers said.

The neck has 32 separate vertebrae — longer than the creature’s body and tail combined — and presumably played a key role in feeding, according to a study published by the Cambridge University Press.