The Shortest-Necked of the Long-Necked Elasmosaurs – #365papers – 2017 – 108

#365papers for April 18, 2017

Serratos, Druckenmiller, and Benson, 2017, A new elasmosaurid (Sauropterygia, Plesiosauria) from the Bearpaw Shale (Late Cretaceous, Maastrichtian) of Montana demonstrates multiple evolutionary reduction of neck length within Elasmosauridae: Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology e1278608.

What’s it about?

Elasmosaurids were marine reptiles that are considered a sub-group of the plesiosaurs. Distinctive features of elasmosaurids are their very long necks and small heads. Here, a new species of elasmosaurid is described that had a relatively short neck and was also fairly small.

Why does it matter?

This study shows that the long necks of elasmosaurids are not the only important characteristics that distinguish them from other groups. It also aids in the discussion of what benefits there may be to having such a long neck, given that this shorter-necked species was among the last to roam the ancient oceans.

Why did I read this?

This paper popped up on my feed. The note that the specimen was discovered by a hunter was interesting, and I decided to pursue it further. I also wind up getting all bunched up with the marine reptiles whenever I teach vertebrate paleontology, so I additionally thought this would be informative to me.

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