—plesiosauroid, adj./plee"see euh sawr'/, n.any marine reptile of the extinct genus Plesiosaurus, from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, having a small head, a long neck, four paddlelike limbs, and a short tail.[ < NL Plesiosaurus (1821), equiv. to Gk plesí(os) near, close to + -o- -O- + saûros -SAUR; orig. so named because of its conjectured nearness to modern reptiles, relative to the ichthyosaurs]
* * *▪ reptileany of a group of long-necked marine reptiles (reptile) found as fossils from the Late Triassic Period into the Late Cretaceous Period (215 million to 80 million years ago). Plesiosaurs had a wide distribution in European seas and around the Pacific Ocean, including Australia, North America, and Asia. Some forms known from North America and elsewhere persisted until near the end of the Cretaceous Period (65 million years ago).Plesiosaurus, an early plesiosaur, was about 4.5 metres (15 feet) long, with a broad, flat body and a relatively short tail. It swam by flapping its fins in the water, much as sea lions (sea lion) do today, in a modified style of underwater “flight.” The nostrils were located far back on the head near the eyes. The neck was long and flexible, and the animal may have fed by swinging its head from side to side through schools of fish, capturing prey by using the long, sharp teeth present in the jaws.Early in their evolutionary history, the plesiosaurs split into two main lineages: the pliosaurs, in which the neck was short and the head elongated; and the plesiosaurids, in which the head remained relatively small and the neck assumed snakelike proportions and became very flexible. The late evolution of plesiosaurs was marked by a great increase in size. Kronosaurus, for example, was an Early Cretaceous pliosaur from Australia that grew to about 12 metres; the skull alone measured about 3.7 metres. Elasmosaurus, a plesiosaurid, had as many as 76 vertebrae in its neck alone and reached a length of about 13 metres, fully half of which consisted of the head and neck.
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