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Elasmosaurus was a long-necked marine reptile that was up to 46 feet long (14 m). Half of its length was its neck, which had as many as 75-76 vertebrae in it (in comparison, people have 7-8 neck vertebrae). Elasmosaurus had four long, paddle-like flippers, a tiny head, sharp teeth in strong jaws, and a pointed tail. It was the longest of the Plesiosaurs.
Elasmosaurus was a reptile, but not a dinosaur. It was a:
WHEN ELASMOSAURUS LIVED
- Diapsid - these include all the reptiles (except turtles) and birds. They are distinguished by having two holes in the rear upper part of their skulls and two holes behind the eyes.
- Sauropterygia (which includes both plesiosaurs and nothosaurs).
- Plesiosaur (marine reptiles)
- Plesiosauroid - a group of plesiosaurs with long, snake-like necks, tiny heads, and wide bodies. These include Plesiosaurus, Cryptocleidus, and Elasmosaurus.
Elasmosaurus lived during the late Cretaceous period, and went extinct during the K-T mass extinction (65 million years ago).
Elasmosaurus lived in the open oceans and breathed air. Some Plesiosaurs have been found with small stones in their stomachs; these may have been used to help grind up their food, or as ballast, to help them dive.
Elasmosaurus ate fish and other swimming animals. They had strong jaws and sharp teeth.
Elasmosaurus swam slowly using its four paddle-like flippers in a manner similar to that of modern turtles. It may have been able to move a little bit on sandy shores, perhaps to lay its eggs.
DISCOVERY OF FOSSILS
Elasmosaurus was named by paleontologist E. D. Cope in 1868 (from a fossil was found in Wyoming, USA). Other Elasmosaurus fossils have also been found in North America.
ELASMOSAURUS and PLESIOSAUR LINKS
Print out a K-3 level Elasmosaurus info page to color!
Plesiosaur information sheet from Enchanted Learning.
Plesiosaur fossils at the UCMP, Berkeley.
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