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A bibliography of early papers on North American plesiosaurs:


The background on Cope's "head-on-the-wrong-end" Elasmosaurus


Copyright © 2002-2009 by Mike Everhart

Created 11/10/2002; Last updated 09/07/2009



LEFT: Figure 33 - "Restoration of Elasmosaurus platyurus, an Upper Cretaceous Plesiosaur"  by S. W. Williston, 1914. Water Reptiles of the Past and Present. University of Chicago Press, 250 pp.

Click for more about KANSAS PLESIOSAURS

For more information on Jurassic plesiosaurs: Adam Smith's The Plesiosaur Directory

For those that are interested in reading some of the original publications as ePapers, the chronological sequence of papers regarding the discovery, naming, reconstruction and subsequent controversy regarding American plesiosaurs from Cimoliasaurus magnus Leidy 1851 and Discosaurus vetustus Leidy 1851 through Elasmosaurus platyurus Cope 1868 is roughly as follows:

Leidy, J., 1851. [Descriptions of a number of fossil reptilian and mammalian remains]. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Phila. 5:325-327. (Cimoliasaurus magnus and Discosaurus vetustus)

Leidy, J., 1854. [Remarks on exhibiting to the Society four vertebrę of a huge extinct Saurian from Arkansas]. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Phil., 7(3):72,
pl. II. (Brimosaurus grandis; meeting of May 23, 1854)

Leidy, J., 1865. Memoir on the extinct reptiles of the Cretaceous formations of the United States. Smithsonian Contrib. Knowl. XIV (6) 1-135, pls. I-XX. (Section on Cimoliasaurus magnus and Discosaurus vetustus)

Cope, E. D., 1868. [Letter describing Elasmosaurus platyurus]. in LeConte, J. L., 1868. Notes on the geology of the survey for the extension of the
Union Pacific Railway, E. D., from the Smoky Hill River, Kansas, to the Rio Grande. Review Printing House, Philadelphia, 76 p. with folded map.

Cope, E. D., 1868. Remarks on a new enaliosaurian, Elasmosaurus platyurus. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Phil., 20:92-93. (meeting of March 24, 1868 - First report of the plesiosaur, Elasmosaurus platyurus)

Cope, E. D., 1868. On a new large enaliosaur. Amer. Jour. Sci. ser. 2, 46(137):263-264. (Summary of Academy of Science article)

Cope, E. D., 1868. [On the structure of the vertebral column in Elasmosaurus]. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Phil., 20:181. (meeting of July 14, 1868)

Cope, E. D., 1869. Synopsis of the Extinct Batrachia and Reptilia of North America, Part I. Trans. Amer. Phil. Soc. New Series, 14:1-235, 51 figs., 11
pls. (pre-print dated August, 1869)

Cope, E. D., 1869. On the reptilian orders Pythonomorpha and Streptosauria. Proc. Boston Soc. Nat. Hist. XII 250-266. http://www.oceansofkansas.com/cope1869a.html

Cope, E. D., 1869. [Remarks on extinct reptiles]. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Phil. 20:313. (Meeting of Dec. 15, 1968; published February, 1869. Cope's description of Elasmosaurus orientalis. http://www.oceansofkansas.com/Cope1868c.html

Cope, E. D., 1869. [A resolution thanking Dr. Theophilus Turner for his donation of the skeleton of Elasmosaurus platyurus]. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci.
Phil., 20:314. (Meeting of December 15, 1868)

Leidy, J., 1870. [Remarks on Elasmosaurus platyurus]. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Phil. 22:9-10. (meeting of March 8, 1870) Leidy criticizes Cope's
reconstruction of Elasmosaurus and states that Cope had put the head on the wrong end.

By late April of 1870, Cope had re-described Elasmosaurus platyurus and published the new description and figures in:

Cope, E. D., 1870*. Synopsis of the extinct Batrachia and Reptilia of North America. Trans. Amer. Philos. Soc., (n. s.) 14:1-252 + i-viii, 55 figs., 14 pl. (*Revision of Cope, 1869, same title, with publication dated listed as August, 1869, published after March, 1870)

Leidy, J., 1870. Discosaurus and its allies. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Phil. 22:18-22. (April 5, 1870)

Leidy, J., 1870. On the Elasmosaurus platyurus of Cope. Amer. Jour. Sci. ser. 2, 49(147):392. (May meeting) (a re-printed version of Leidy's criticism of Cope's original reconstruction).

Leidy, J., 1870. On Discosaurus and its allies. Amer. Jour. Sci., ser. 2, 50(148):139-140.

Cope, E. D., 1870. On Elasmosaurus platyurus Cope. Amer. Jour. Sci., ser. 2, 50(148):140-141. (A response to Leidy's criticism)

Cope, E. D., 1870. Additional note on Elasmosaurus. Amer. Jour. Sci., ser. 2, 50(149):268-269. (A second response to Leidy)

Following Cope's "Additional note" in 1870, the battle regarding Elasmosaurus was essentially over until the sensationalized newspaper
articles in the New York Herald in January of 1890:

Ballou, W. H., 1890. [Statements by O. C. Marsh and E. D. Cope regarding the "head on the wrong end" Elasmosaurus]. New York Herald, January 19 and 20, 1890, Vol. 19(No. 508 and 509:pages 11 and 3 respectively), as part of a series by William Ballou.

For additional information on elasmosaur specimens from the Niobrara Chalk, see: Everhart, M. J. 2006. The occurrence of elasmosaurids (Reptilia: Plesiosauria) in the Niobrara Chalk of Western Kansas. Paludicola 5(4):170-183.