Facts about Plesiosaurs, an extinct prehistoric animal

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Dinosaur Jungle   >   Other Prehistoric Animals   >   Plesiosaurs


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Scientific Classification
  Kingdom Animalia
  Phylum Chordata
  Class Sauropsida
  Superorder Sauropterygia
  Order Plesiosauria
  Suborder Plesiosauroidea
Plesiosaurs were a group of aquatic reptiles that lived in both marine and freshwater environments. They evolved during the early Jurassic period or late Triassic period, from Nothosaurs, and went extinct during the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction.

Plesiosaurs had a broad body, short tail, and four limb flippers. The term "Plesiosaur" includes the so-called "true Plesiosaurs", which had a long necks, and the Pliosaurs which had shorter necks and a larger head. Plesiosaurs varied greatly in size, the adults varying between 10 feet (3 meters) and 66 feet (20 meters) in length, depending on the particular species. Perhaps the most remarkable are the family of Plesiosaurs known as "Elasmosauridae", which includes species such as Elasmosaurus and Thalassomedon, who had necks that made up half or more of the length of the creature.

Plesiosaurs are often drawn with their necks positioned upwards in a swan-like posture. However, this is now thought to be unlikely to be an accurate depiction - it is thought they necks were probably not flexible enough to do this, and, in any case, such a posture would probably have tipped them over.

In life, Plesiosaurs are believed to have been the top ("apex") predators of the oceans. It is thought perhaps they swam slowly below the surface of the water, and then used their long necks to position to snap up fish or cephalopods. Stones have been found in the stomach area of some Plesiosaurs (including Thalassomedon), and it is thought perhaps that these were used as ballast and/or as an aid to digestion (similar to gizzard stones in modern birds being used to grind up food).

The first recorded Plesiosaur fossils were found in England - these include a partial skeleton found by Stukely in Nottinghamshire in 1719, and others found by Mary Anning. As a result of this, an impressive collection of Plesiosaur fossils are now found in the Natural History Museum and London.

A number of alleged lake monsters (animals supposedly living in freshwater lakes) are sometimes claimed to be living Plesiosaurs. These include Champ which supposedly lives in Lake Champlain in the United States, Ogopogo which supposedly lives in Lake Okanagan in Canada, and most famously of all, Nessie which supposedly lives in Loch Ness in Scotland. Mainstream scientists are generally skeptical of these claims for a variety of reasons including lack of physical evidence, the lakes are generally too small to support a viable breeding population, the lakes are often too cold, and bodies of dead animals have not been found. Cryptozoologists (people who search for rumored or mythical creatures whose existence is uncertain), and of course tourists to these areas, however continue to look for these creatures.

Plesiosaurs Timeline:

Plesiosaurs were marine reptiles that lived between 228 and 65 million years ago

Plesiosaurs were marine reptiles that lived between 228 and 65 million years ago

Related Information & Resources

See Also

Plesiosaur Books

Here are some books from Amazon.com:

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Swimming with the Plesiosaur (Dinosaur Cove)
By Rex Stone

Scholastic Paperbacks
Mass Market Paperback (80 pages)

Swimming with the Plesiosaur (Dinosaur Cove)
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Product Description:
Everyone is digging this dino-mite adventure series!

Tom and Jamie can't believe their luck when they find a secret entrance to a prehistoric world filled with dinosaurs! They vow to have a new adventure every day.

Loaded with snorkeling gear, the boys decide to explore the cove itself. They have fun with the dolphin-like ichthyosaurs in the bay, and even tempt Wanna out into the water. But there are some not-so-friendly creatures lurking, including a hungry plesiosaur that wants a snack! Can the boys save their dinosaur friends-and themselves-from the deadliest creature in the prehistoric ocean?
Plesiosaur Peril (Tales of Prehistoric Life)
By Daniel Loxton

Kids Can Press
Released: 2014-03-01
Hardcover (32 pages)

Plesiosaur Peril (Tales of Prehistoric Life)
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In the Tales of Prehistoric Life series, award-winning author and illustrator Daniel Loxton uses stunningly realistic, state-of-the-art, computer-generated images to vividly re-create the undersea world of the Jurassic period. Featured here are creatures called plesiosaurs, marine reptiles distantly related to land-based dinosaurs. We follow the tale of a baby Cryptoclidus, a type of plesiosaur, whose curiosity about her new world in the ocean leads her to wander away from her mother and the rest of her protective pod. As the baby happily explores and plays, she is suddenly confronted by an enormous Liopleurodon, a predatory and much larger plesiosaur. In a highly dramatic scene, the baby, with the help of the rest of her pod, makes a narrow escape from becoming the Liopleurodon's dinner.

The exciting adventure story and high-impact digital illustrations, each covering a two-page spread, will captivate children of this age, particularly boys, who are huge fans of prehistoric animals. But the book is also a terrific source of factual scientific information about the lives of plesiosaurs, their ocean habitat, the ocean's other inhabitants and the ways these creatures interacted with each other. As a special bonus, there is an information page describing these plesiosaurs at the back of the book. With its photo-realistic illustrations, this book would make an excellent resource for life science lessons on prehistoric animals and their environments, evolution and how modern scientists use their discoveries to make deductions about the animals of the distant past.
Ancient Animals: Plesiosaur
By Sarah L. Thomson

Released: 2017-07-18
Hardcover (32 pages)

Ancient Animals: Plesiosaur
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Ninety million years ago, giant dinosaurs roamed the earth, pterosaurs flew through the air, and giant reptiles and fish hunted in the oceans. The area that is now Kansas was covered by water and one of its inhabi-tants was the plesiosaur—a reptile with an extremely long neck and a huge body.

This early reader about the ancient plesiosaur brings the prehistoric world of this ocean-dwelling animal to life, explain-ing how scientists think these reptiles lived, hunted, and became extinct. Back matter explores other reptiles both ancient and modern and provides additional print, visual, and web resources.
Pleasured by the Plesiosaurus
By Lucy Sparks

Released: 2013-10-04
Kindle Edition (14 pages)

Pleasured by the Plesiosaurus
Product Description:
Warning: This is a tale of monster sex. All of the sexual descriptions found in this book are very explicit in nature and unsuitable for anyone under 18.

Vlada is alone near the river foraging for berries for her tribe when she falls into the water. Certain that she will drown, she is shocked when a strange creature comes to her rescue. It is one of the fabled great lizards that used to roam the seas, and after the rest of its kind were destroyed, it is very lonely. Vlada knows she owes it her life, and at the same time, she is deeply attracted to the beast. It wants to mate with her, and she wants it as well...

This 5200 word short story is intended for mature audiences only!
Plesiosaurs (Exploring Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Creatures)
By Susan H. Gray

The Child's World, Inc.
Released: 2014-01-01
Kindle Edition (32 pages)

Plesiosaurs (Exploring Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Creatures)
Product Description:
Sharp teeth and excellent hunting and swimming skills made plesiosaurs dangerous additions to prehistoric oceans. Young readers will get a glimpse of what life was like for these fierce predators as they scoured the waves in search of their next meal.
The Big Book Of Sea Monsters (Scary Looking Sea Animals)
By Baby Professor

Baby Professor
Paperback (32 pages)

The Big Book Of Sea Monsters (Scary Looking Sea Animals)
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They may be scary-looking but they definitely have important functions in securing the biodiversity of marine life. Learn about these sea monsters by ÒmeetingÓ them face-to-face. The use of picture books in introducing sea monsters will help you slowly accept them and not be feel scared towards them. Picture books work by capturing the attention to help you remember facts better. Buy a copy now!
Plesiosaurus (Dinosaurs Ruled!)
By Leigh Rockwood

PowerKids Press
Paperback (24 pages)

Plesiosaurus (Dinosaurs Ruled!)
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The early Jurassic period was not just a time when giant reptiles roamed the land. They also swam in the prehistoric seas. Plesiosaurus, with its long, thin neck and paddle-like limbs, was one of the large marine reptiles that lived at this time. Full-color images and interesting, accessible text will help students find out more about what life might have been like for this underwater creature that could grow to a whopping 16 feet in length.
North American Plesiosaurs: Volume Fieldiana, Geology, Vol.2, No.1
By Samuel Wendell Williston

Palala Press
Paperback (208 pages)

North American Plesiosaurs: Volume Fieldiana, Geology, Vol.2, No.1
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This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work.

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.

As a reproduction of a historical artifact, this work may contain missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. We appreciate your support of the preservation process, and thank you for being an important part of keeping this knowledge alive and relevant.

North American Plesiosaurs, Vol. 1 (Classic Reprint)
By Samuel Wendell Williston

Forgotten Books
Paperback (204 pages)

North American Plesiosaurs, Vol. 1 (Classic Reprint)
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There arc few orders of reptiles, so long and so widely known as arc the plesiosaurs, of which our knowledge is more unsatisfactory. It has been within the past decade only that a tolerably complete knowledge of any form has been obtained, thanks largely to the researches of Seeley, Dames and A ndrews. Especially is our ignorance of the American forms yet great. Very few figures or adequate descriptions have been published of our numerous and diverse types. Not only are the specific characters of the descriptions almost wholly undecipherable, but the generic characters even can be satisfactorily made out in but few. Thirty-two species and fifteen genera have bed described from the United States, and in not a single one of them has there been even a considerable part of the skeleton made known. The skull is known in but three species, and in only one has there been any description of it. With the exception of a sketch of the incomplete girdles of Elasmosaurusplaiyurust and of a few limb bones by Leidy, with an outline figure of a Megalneusaurus paddle by Knight, nothing of the extremities has been published. And yet, specimens of plesiosaurs are not at all rare in American deposits and collections. Although most of the genera and species of the United States have been founded on such scant material, and even more scanty descriptions, that their identification is almost impossible, except by actual comparison of the type specimens, it is not at all improbable that nearly all the names which have been proposed will eventually be found valid. The group has a wide geological range, from the Jurassic to the uppermost Cretaceous, nearly every epoch being represented by one or more species. The writer has for some time given such attention as his duties permitted to the study of the American plesiosaurs, in the hopes eventually of clearing up much of the confusion n
(Typographical errors above are due to OCR software and don't occur in the book.)
The Bowl of Baal
By Robert Ames Bennet

Paleozoic Press
Released: 2015-03-13
Kindle Edition (255 pages)

The Bowl of Baal
Product Description:
Robert Ames Bennet's pulp classic comes to the Kindle for the first time.

"Baal, god of day, brother of Ishtar, come swiftly to the Bowl! Save Istara, thy goddess priestess, from the oppression of the dark Tigra, priestess of thy enemy, the evil Dweller in Irem!"

This is the message, attached to a wind-swept falcon, which Larry O'Brien intercepts while photographing the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. Curious and adventure-hungry, he goes in search of the prayer's source and finds an entire forgotten civilization hidden in a secluded canyon. It is there that O'Brien meets the note's author, the shy but kind Istara. There, too he meets the fierce Tigra, priestess to the Dweller, an ancient reptile that feeds on human flesh. O'Brien becomes entangled in the valley's religious and political rivalries, leads a war against a tribe of savage ape-men, eludes prehistoric sharks, and must go head to head against the ancient Dweller itself.

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