marine reptile

The swimming reptile Polycotylus, viewed from the top. New discoveries indicate these prehistoric marine reptiles were quite chunky - more like seals and walruses than snakes or crocodiles. Polycotylus was a distant relative of the enormous Kronosaurus.

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ELASMOSAURUS
“Thin plate lizard”
Late Cretaceous, 80.5 million years ago

Elasmosaurus was a plesiosaur that could grow up to 46 feet in length – half of that length being neck! When first discovered in 1868, the prominent paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope mistook its attenuated neck for a tail, placing its head on its rear end. Cope’s professional rival, Othniel Charles Marsh, ridiculed him for this error, marking the scientific community’s first usage of “butthead” in peer review.

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California’s new state marine reptile

The endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle, which makes an epic ocean-crossing journey each year to feast on sea nettle jellies off the California coast, is now the state’s official marine reptile. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the designation into law last week.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium was among the many ocean conservation organizations that supported the designation, introduced by Assemblymember Paul Fong of Mountain View. Fong was also the co-author of Aquarium-sponsored legislation that outlawed the shark fin trade in California.

Leatherback sea turtles are regular visitors to Monterey Bay. (That’s where staff member Alison Barratt took the photo above.) They make a 12,000-mile round trip journey from Indonesia to fatten up on jellies off our coast. Newly published research suggests that sea turtles may be able to sniff out the presence of ocean upwelling, which triggers the jellyfish blooms that turtles find so irresistible.

Unfortunately, longline fishing and development on leatherback nesting beaches have pushed this ancient reptile to the brink of extinction. We’re hoping its new status will bring attention to the threats facing leatherbacks and other sea turtles – and spark greater support for global conservation efforts.

That way, perhaps the leatherback will enjoy a better fate than the California grizzly bear, which survives only on the state flag. (Leatherback flag ©Oceana)

Starting in 2013, each October 15 is designated as Leatherback Conservation Day, with California schools encouraged to share the leatherback’s story with special activities for students.

ATOPODENTATUS
“Absurd tooth”
Middle Triassic, 240 million years ago

This marine reptile bore a superficial resemblance to a sea lion or manatee (though it had four limbs, distinct from its tail). It had a flamingo-like beak lined with needle-like teeth, and a very unique, zipper-like cleft up the center of its top jaw, both of which lead scientists to believe it was a filter-feeder. It was given the name “absurd tooth,” presumably behind its back.

This large male Green sea turtle came into the reef for a much needed clean. I took a couple photos and then just sat with it for ten minutes as it got cleaned. It must have been at sea for a long time to be this dirty, or maybe it keeps getting creeped out by people staring at him every time he tries to get cleaned. It was such an old turtle, I cried I was so happy to share a moment with such an amazing creature. Currently listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red list. 

MOSASAURUS
“Lizard of the Meuse River”
Late Cretaceous, 70-66 million years ago

Mosasaurus was a type of extinct marine reptile similar to a giant monitor lizard, but with fins. It would have been an apex predator of the Cretaceous seas, growing to almost 60 feet long!
The first Mosasaurus fossil was found in 1764 (about 50 years before the first dinosaur remains), though it wasn’t recognized as a marine reptile until around 1800 (roughly 40 years before the term “dinosaur” was coined). While it was instrumental in the understanding of extinction – and by extension modern biology as we know it – Mosasaurus was largely forgotten until its triumphant rediscovery in November 2014 as part of a movie trailer.

THE MARINE REPTILE TIMELINE

While the era of dinosaurs is now fairly fixed in the popular consciousness, far less attention is given to the reptiles of the same time period that returned to the sea. While not dinosaurs, these reptiles too reached impressive proportions- and gained traits, like live birth and warm-bloodedness, that we now associate with mammals.

Take my hand and I’ll walk you through the world of seafaring reptiles, all the way back to diminutive Mesosaurus 300 million years ago…

IT’S MARINE REPTILE TIME.

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DokiDot the Liopleurodon!
This adorable predator will be your huggable friend!
Baby soft minky fabric
Non clumping polyester cluster stuffing
Wool/Rayon felt teeth
and solid black safety eyes

$30+shipping
Payments accepted via paypal
contact me via ask or at GoldbloodedKiller@gmail.com if you’d like this plush or a similar one custom made for you.

ICHTHYOSAURUS
“Fish lizard”
Late Triassic-early Jurassic, 206-180 million years ago

Though it lived at the same time, Ichthyosaurus was not a dinosaur. And though it looks a bit like a modern dolphin, it wasn’t a mammal (or even a fish!). Ichthyosaurus was a reptile, and it lends its name to an entire group of similar marine reptiles: the ichthyosaurs (“fish lizards”). Ichthyosaurs mostly ate fish, and probably hunted near the water’s surface using their large eyes. And, based on juvenile fossils found inside adults, they gave birth to live young, just like your mother. Ohhhhhhh.