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Sea Dragons: Predators of the Prehistoric Oceans

Published on Sep 1, 2003
Richard Ellis1
Estimated H-index: 1
Abstract
Working from the fossil record, Ellis explores the natural history of these fierce predators, speculates on their habits, and tells how they eventually became extinct or did they? He traces the 200-million-year history of the great ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and mosasaurs who swam the ancient oceans and who, according to some, may even still frequent the likes of Loch Ness. Picture if you will seventy-foot dragons with foot-long serrated teeth, or an animal that looked like a crocodile crossed with a shark the size of a small yacht. With its impossibly long neck, Plesiosaurus conybeari has been compared to "a giant snake threaded through the body of a turtle." At a length of nearly sixty feet, Mosasaurus hoffmanni boasted powerful jaws and teeth that could crunch up even the hardest-shelled giant sea turtle. And Kronosaurus queenslandicus, perhaps the most formidable of the lot, had a skull nine feet long more than twice that of Tyrannosaurus Rex with teeth to match. The first book about these amazing animals in nearly a century, Sea Dragons draws upon the most recent scientific research to vividly reconstruct their lives and habitats. Their fossils have been found all over the world in Europe, Australia, Japan, and even Kansas in lands that once lay on the floors of Jurassic and Triassic seas. Along the way, the book also provides intriguing insights into and entertaining tales about the work, discoveries, and competing theories that compose the fascinating world of vertebrate paleontology. Ellis also graces his text with a set of incomparable illustrations. Widely hailed as our foremost artist of marine natural history, he depicts vividly how these creatures probably appeared and, through these likenesses, invites us to speculate on their locomotion, their predatory habits, their very lifestyles. A genuine book of marvels and wonders, Sea Dragons will certainly stir one's curiosity about our planet's prehistoric past.
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The frequency of decompression illness was high among the extinct marine “reptiles” and very low among the marine mammals. Signs of decompression illness are still found among turtles but whales and seals are unaffected. In humans, the risk of decompression illness is five times increased in individuals with Patent Foramen Ovale; this condition allows blood shunting from the venous circuit to the systemic circuit. This right-left shunt is characteristic of the “reptile” heart, and it is suggeste...
1 CitationsSource
#1P.G. Hoare (British Museum)
Abstract A substantial part of an exceptionally large pliosaur skeleton was uncovered in Upper Jurassic Kimmeridge Clay at Stretham in 1952. Relatively few bones were collected without delay by palaeontologists before members of the public were permitted to take what they wanted. When the importance of the find became evident, attempts were made to recover the material that had been dispersed. Two further discoveries of pliosaur bones dating from 1960 are assumed to belong to the same animal. Ab...
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#1Johan Lindgren (Lund University)H-Index: 23
#2Hani F. Kaddumi (AMNH: American Museum of Natural History)H-Index: 2
Last. Michael J. Polcyn (SMU: Southern Methodist University)H-Index: 21
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Mosasaurs were the dominant marine reptiles in the Late Cretaceous. Lindgren et al. report a mosasaur fossil with preserved soft tissue, providing the first evidence that mosasaurs were propelled by hypocercal tail fins.
24 CitationsSource
#1Christopher W. Walmsley (Monash University)H-Index: 5
#2Peter D. Smits (U of C: University of Chicago)H-Index: 6
Last. Colin R. McHenry (Monash University)H-Index: 14
view all 9 authors...
Background Crocodilians exhibit a spectrum of rostral shape from long snouted (longirostrine), through to short snouted (brevirostrine) morphologies. The proportional length of the mandibular symphysis correlates consistently with rostral shape, forming as much as 50% of the mandible’s length in longirostrine forms, but 10% in brevirostrine crocodilians. Here we analyse the structural consequences of an elongate mandibular symphysis in relation to feeding behaviours. Methods/Principal Findings S...
63 CitationsSource
I The first edition in English of Jules Verne’s Voyage au centre de la Terre (1864), published in 1871 as A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, like the original features an epic combat between two enormous marine reptiles but identifies one of them as “the world-renowned ichthyosaurus”. One of many alterations this British rendition imposes upon the second, expanded edition of Verne’s novel (1867), the spurious “world-renowned” was added not only to heighten interest, but also, quite likely, to...
3 CitationsSource