Recent plesiosaur papers – a round up

So far, 2008 has seen a healthy number of new papers on plesiosaurs and a few new taxa too. Way back in February, Druckenmiller and Russell (2008a) introduced Nichollsia borealis, a plesiosaur of uncertain affinity, based on a beautifully preserved specimen from Alberta, Canada. More recently, Druckenmiller and Russell (2008b) published a large scale cladistic analysis of plesiosauria to try and make sense of plesiosaur relationships, especially the affinities of Leptocleidus and Nichollsia – this is a substantial piece of work. Both papers stem directly from Druckenmiller’s PhD thesis.

Sato and Wu (2008) erected a new taxon Borealonectes russelli, a pliosaur they identify as a rhomaleosaurid, based on a skull and partial postcranium from the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. rhomaleosaurids also recieved treatment from Smith and Dyke (2008) who described the skull of Rhomaleosaurus cramptoni – the holotype of the family. They also present a full body reconstruction of the 7m long genus, and a cladistic analysis dedicated to pliosaurs.

Long necks received attention from Zammit et al. (2008) who investigated the flexibility of an elasmosaurid cervical column, confirming the common presumption that swan-like postures were impossible in beasts such as Elasmosaurus. Bardet et al. (2008) described a partial plesiosaur skeleton from Asturias, helping to elucidate plesiosaur diversity in the Pliensbachian and presenting a rare specimen from Spain.

Finally (for now, I may have overlooked one or two papers), Smith (2008) presented an overview of plesiosaurs aimed at a popular audience. It covers basic aspects of the anatomy and biology of plesiosaurs. I hope this article will fill the void present between technical papers and children’s books and help people ‘get into’ the scientific literature, which can be quite daunting otherwise.

Plesiosaur anatomy Smith 2008
Plesiosaur anatomy – Figure 1 from Smith (2008)

References –

Bardet, N., M.., Fernández, J. C. García-Ramos, Z. P. Suberbiola, L. Piñuela, J. I. Ruiz-Omeñaca, and P. Vincent. 2008. A juvenile plesiosaur from the Pliensbachian (Lower Jurassic) of Asturias, Spain. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 28, 258-263.

Druckenmiller, P. S. and Russell, A. P. 2008a. Skeletal anatomy of an exceptionally complete specimen of a new genus of plesiosaur from the Early Cretaceous (Early Albian) of Northeastern Alberta, Canada. Palaeontolgraphica, 283, 1-33.

Druckenmiller, P. S. and Russell, A. P. 2008b. A phylogeny of Plesiosauria (Sauropterygia) and its bearing on the systematic status of Leptocleidus Andrews, 1922. Zootaxa, 1863, 120pp.

Sato, T. and Wu, X-C. 2008. A new Jurassic pliosaur from Melville Island, Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Canadian Journal of Earth Science, 45, 303-320.

Smith, A. S. 2008. Fossils explained 54: plesiosaurs. Geology Today. 24, (2), 71-75.

Smith, A.S. and Dyke, G.J. 2008. The skull of the giant predatory pliosaur Rhomaleosaurus cramptoni: implications for plesiosaur phylogenetics. Naturwissenschaften, 95, 975-980.

Zammit, M.; Daniels, C. B. and Kear, B. P. 2008. Elasmosaur (Reptilia: Sauropterygia) neck flexibility: Implications for feeding strategies. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A 150, 124–130

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