Plesiosaur Fossils: Long-Necked Marine Reptiles | Darwin and Wallace: A Nature & Fossil Store

Plesiosaur Fossils: Long-Necked Marine Reptiles


      Though commonly associated with their contemporaries, the dinosaurs, plesiosaurs were actually a widely-diverse group of four-flippered, marine reptiles. The first recognized plesiosaur specimen was discovered in Lyme Regis, England by the well-known fossil hunter Mary Anning in 1823. It was named Plesiosaurus (meaning “near lizard,” as it was more lizard-like than the earlier discovered marine reptile of the same region called Ichthyosaurus), which gave the group its name. The earliest confirmed fossil evidence of these creatures comes from the Early Jurassic Period, approximately 199 million years ago (though other known Late Triassic fossils may indeed prove to be plesiosaurian as well). It is widely believed that plesiosaurs evolved from their Triassic relatives, the nothosaurs (long-necked, amphibious reptiles that probably lived a lifestyle similar to seals). Two basic groups makeup the plesiosaurs: the plesiosauroids (long-necked varieties that fed mostly on small prey, such as fish and squid), and the pliosauroids (short-necked varieties that fed on large prey). Plesiosaurs would become extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period (along with the non-avian dinosaurs), as the earth suffered a devastating global extinction event approximately 66 million years ago.

    Click the video below to watch a life-like restoration of the plesiosaur Styxosaurus (as well as fleeting glimpses of the smaller plesiosaur Dolichorhynchops) from the documentary "Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure" (National Geographic, 2007):

Click on the images below to see the incredible fossils we offer in our Plesiosaur selection: