STL Science Center

STL Science Center

22 March 2013

Dolly Stops By

Photo by Ryan Somma
Dolichorhynchops osborni is the type species of a short necked plesiosaur genus. Described in 1902 by Williston, Dolichorhynchops has had a slightly checkered past and, in the past 8 years, has had two new species assigned to the genus; D. herschelensis (Sato 2005) and D. tropicensis (McKean 2011). Many high quality skeletons of Dolichorhynchops have been recovered from the ground to this date and are on display (of course that means there are a lot of quality casts out there as well) including those at the University of Kansas, the Sternberg Museum, and the Smithsonian. At up to 15 ft (4.6m), the Sternberg skeleton (VP404) is about 10 feet long, this short necked plesiosaur, though shorter than long necked plesiosaurs, was more than likely not a much better swimmer; better for sure, but probably not that much better considering that the locomotive abilities of the animal were similar if not the same as those bigger slow moving plesiosaurs we discussed previously. Some sources disagree with this assessment, stating that these were agile and quick swimmers; I would like to put forth that theory myself but the first theory deserves equal discussion considering it has been popularized at the moment. Remember that marine reptiles had lungs and not gills, therefore, Dolichorhynchops, as well as the other marine reptiles discussed so far, lived, ate, and played near the surface of the ocean. In the slow moving theory it is likely these animals ate slower moving fish, squids, and other such animals or may have bunched animals together in tight schools then fed as groups. In the faster moving theory we would see an animal hunting down quicker moving prey, probably like a giant penguin as it danced through the water.

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