Plesiosaur Skull Anatomy
Copyright © 2000-2009 by Mike Everhart
Last updated 09/07/2009
LEFT: Plate IX, Andrews, C. W. 1896. On the structure of the plesiosaurian skull. Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc. London. 246-253.
This page is intended as a primer on the structural anatomy of the plesiosaur skull. As a model I am using Plate IX from an article written by Charles W. Andrews and published in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London. Although Plesiosaurus macropcephalus is a Jurassic plesiosaur from England, the cranial anatomy is reasonably similar to that of the late Cretaceous plesiosaurs from the Western Interior Seaway. Click here for a picture of the skeleton of Plesiosaurus dolichodeirus from Richard Forrest's Plesiosaur webpage. You can also click on the thumbnails of the skull of Thalassomedon haningtoni below (DMNH 1588; Denver Museum of Nature and Science) for comparison.
List of Abbreviations:
ang. - angular; b.oc. - basioccipital; b.sph.- basisphenoid; col. - columella cranii; ext. nar.- external nares; int. nar. - internal nares; fr. - frontal; mx.- maxilla; pal.- palatine; par.- parietal; pas; parasphlenoid; pin.for. - pineal foramen; pmx; - premaxilla; p.fr. -prefrontal; ?post.fr.? - separate post-frontal; post. pal.vac. -posterior palatine vacuities; q. -quadrate; vom. - vomer.
Thalassomedon haningtoni (DMNH 1588; Denver Museum of Nature and Science)
|LEFT: A ventral view of the Jurassic plesiosaur Thaumatosaurus von
Meyer 1841, showing the relationship between the pectoral and pelvic girdles, and the
gastralia. The name "Thaumatosaurus" means "wonder lizard." (See Ben Creisler's Guide for more
information). Original drawing by E. Fraas (1910). Specimen was more recently
attributed to Rhomaleosaurus victor. The specimen (SMNS
12478) was damaged by fire in WW II, but was repaired.
The remains are currently on exhibit in the Staatliches Museum fuer Naturkunde Stuttgart, Museum am Loewentor, Rosenstein 1, 70191 Stuttgart, Germany. (Photo by Markus Moser, 2004)
|LEFT: A close up of the "belly of the beast" showing the interlocking gastralia that covered the middle portion of the body. The specimen does contain some gastroliths (pers. comm., Oliver Wings, 2004).|
For more information on Jurassic plesiosaurs: Adam Smith's The Plesiosaur Directory