New plesiosaurs from the Upper Cretaceous of Antarctica

Sankar Chatterjee, Bryan J. Small

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New plesiosaur remains from the Upper Cretaceous Lopez de Bertodano Formation (late Campanian-Maastrichtian) of Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula include Cryptoclididae and Elasmosauridae. The occurrence of Cryptoclididae is reported from the Antarctic region for the first time. The taxon represents a new genus and species, based on a skull and associated cervical vertebrae. The long, slender and delicate teeth may have formed a 'trapping' device that enabled cryptoclidids to feed on small fish and crustaceans that abound in the same deposits. The cryptoclidids had a restricted distribution, being known so far from the Middle and Late Jurassic of England, and the Late Cretaceous of Chile, Argentina, and Antarctica. Other specimens, represented by several postcranial skeletons, are taxonomically indeterminate, but they share some features with other contemporary elasmosaurid genera such as Hydrotherosaurus, Morenosaurus, Thalassomedon, and Mauisaurus. Unlike the cryptoclidids, the elasmosaurids had a cosmopolitan distribution during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Trophic diversity within guilds of marine predators is examined in the Lopez de Bertodano palaeocommunities. Three predator guilds are recognized on the basis of tooth morphology and prey preference. The mosasaurs composed the 'Cut guild', and were the principal predators. The elasmosaurids constituted the 'Pierce guild', and the cryptoclidids formed the 'Trap guild'. These marine reptiles exploited the various pelagic resources such as sharks, bony fish, soft cephalopods and crustaceans, and survived until the end of the Cretaceous. The plesiosaurs were excellent swimmers, and used their hyperphalangic paddles for subaqueous flight in the manner of modern sea lions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-215
Number of pages19
JournalGeological Society Special Publication
StatePublished - 1989


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