Liopleurodon

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Liopleurodon
Temporal range: MiddleLate Jurassic, 162–150Ma
Liopleurodon ferox Tubingen 2.JPG
L. ferox skeleton
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Plesiosauria
Suborder: Pliosauroidea
Family: Pliosauridae
Genus: Liopleurodon
Sauvage, 1873
Species

L. ferox Sauvage, 1873 (type)
L. pachydeirus (Seeley, 1869)

Synonyms

Ischyrodon ferox
Pliosaurus ferox

Liopleurodon (/ˌl.ɵˈplʊərədɒn/; meaning 'smooth-sided teeth') is a genus of large, carnivorous marine reptile belonging to the Pliosauroidea, a clade of short-necked plesiosaurs. The two species of Liopleurodon lived during the Callovian stage of the Middle Jurassic Period (c. 160 to 155 mya). It was the apex predator of the Middle to Late Jurassic seas that covered Europe. The largest species, L. ferox, is estimated to have grown up to 6.39 meters (21.0 feet) in length.[1]

The name "Liopleurodon" (meaning "smooth-sided tooth") derives from Greek words: λεῖος [leios], "smooth"; pleurá, side or rib; and odṓn, tooth.

Discovery and species[edit]

L. ferox skull

The genus name Liopleurodon was coined by Henri Émile Sauvage in 1873 on the basis of very poor remains consisting of three 70 millimeter (2¾ inch) teeth. One tooth, found near Boulogne-sur-Mer, France in layers dating from the Callovian, was named Liopleurodon ferox, another from Charly, France was named Liopleurodon grossouvrei, while a third discovered near Caen, France was originally described as Poikilopleuron bucklandi and ascribed by Sauvage to the species Liopleurodon bucklandi. Sauvage did not ascribe the genus to any particular group of reptiles in his descriptions.[2]

Liopleurodon fossils have been found mainly in England and France, with one younger species known from Russia. Fossil specimens that are contemporary (Callovian) with those from England and France referrable to Liopleurodon are known from Germany.[3]

Currently, there are two recognized species within Liopleurodon. From the Callovian of England and France L. ferox is well known; while also from the Callovian of England is the rarer L. pachydeirus, described by Seeley as a Pliosaurus (1869).[4] Only L. ferox is known from more or less complete skeletons.

Palaeobiology[edit]

Restoration of L.. ferox

Four strong paddle-like limbs suggest that Liopleurodon was a powerful swimmer. Its four-flipper mode of propulsion is characteristic of all plesiosaurs. A study involving a swimming robot has demonstrated that although this form of propulsion is not especially efficient, it provides very good acceleration - a desirable trait in an ambush predator.[5][6] Studies of the skull have shown that it could probably scan the water with its nostrils to ascertain the source of certain smells.[7]

Size[edit]

Public attention was focused on Liopleurodon ferox in 1999 when it was featured in an episode of the BBC television series Walking with Dinosaurs, which depicted it as an enormous 25 m (82 ft) long predator; this was based on very fragmentary remains, and the calculations of 20-metre specimens are generally considered dubious.[8]

Estimating the size of pliosaurs is difficult because not much is known of their postcranial anatomy. The palaeontologist L. B. Tarlo suggested that their total body length can be estimated from the length of their skull which he claimed was typically one-seventh of the former measurement, applying this ratio to L. ferox suggests that the largest known specimen was a little over 10 m (33 ft) while a more typical size range would be from 5 to 7 m (16 to 23 ft).[9] The body mass has been estimated at 1 and 1.7 t (2,200 and 3,700 lb) for the lengths 4.8 and 7 m (16 and 23 ft) respectively.[10]

However, new research on Kronosaurus[9] and the finding of a complete skeleton of L. ferox show that their skulls were actually about one-fifth of their total body length,[1] which suggests a maximum known total body length of 6.39 m (21.0 ft) based on NHM R3536, the largest known skull at 1.26 m (4.1 ft) in condylobasal length[1](1.54 m (5.1 ft) in overall length[11]).

Taxonomy[edit]

Liopleurodon belongs to the family Pliosauridae, a clade within Plesiosauria, known from the Jurassic (maybe also from the Cretaceous) of Europe and North America.[10]

Liopleurodon was one of the basal taxa from the Middle Jurassic. Differences between these taxa and their relatives from the Upper Jurassic include alveoli count, smaller skull and smaller body size.[11]

An analysis in 2013 classifies Liopleurodon, Simolestes, Peloneustes, Pliosaurus, Gallardosaurus, and Brachaucheninae as Thalassophonea.[12]

The cladogram below follows a 2011 analysis by paleontologists Hilary F. Ketchum and Roger B. J. Benson, and reduced to genera only.[13]

Pliosauroidea
Rhomaleosauridae

BMNH49202





"Plesiosaurus" macrocephalus




Archaeonectrus



Macroplata






"Rhomaleosaurus" megacephalus




Eurycleidus




Rhomaleosaurus




Meyerasaurus



Maresaurus








Pliosauridae

Thalassiodracon




Hauffiosaurus




Attenborosaurus





BMNH R2439



Marmornectes





"Pliosaurus" andrewsi





OUMNH J.02247



Peloneustes





Simolestes




Liopleurodon




Pliosaurus




Megacephalosaurus[14]




Brachauchenius



Kronosaurus















References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Noe, Leslie F.; Jeff Liston and Mark Evans (2003). "The first relatively complete exoccipital-opisthotic from the braincase of the Callovian pliosaur, Liopleurodon". Geological Magazine (UK: Cambridge University Press) 140 (4): 479–486. doi:10.1017/S0016756803007829. 
  2. ^ Sauvage, H.E. (1873). "Notes sur les Reptiles fossiles". Bulletin de la Société Géologique de France. series 3 4: 381–385. 
  3. ^ Sachs, S. (1997). "Mesozoische Reptilien aus Nordrhein-Westfalen." Pp. 22-27 in Sachs, S., Rauhut, O.W.M. and Weigert, A. (eds.), Terra Nostra. 1. Treffen der deutschsprachigen Paläoherpetologen Düsseldorf.
  4. ^ Seeley, H.G. (1869). Index to the Fossil remains of Aves, Ornithosauria, and Reptilia, from the Secondary System of Strata arranged in the Woodwardian Museum of the University of Cambridge.
  5. ^ Long Jr, J. H.; Schumacher, J.; Livingston, N.; Kemp, M. (2006). "Four flippers or two? Tetrapodal swimming with an aquatic robot". Bioinspir. & Biomim 1: 20–29. doi:10.1088/1748-3182/1/1/003. 
  6. ^ "Swimming Robot Tests Theories About Locomotion In Existing And Extinct Animals". ScienceDaily. May 30, 2006. Retrieved June 7, 2009. 
  7. ^ Carpenter, K. (1997). "Comparative cranial anatomy of two North American Cretaceous plesiosaurs." Pp. 191-216 in Callaway, J.M. and Nicholls, E.L. (eds.), Ancient Marine Reptiles. Academic Press.
  8. ^ http://dml.cmnh.org/2001Feb/msg00222.html
  9. ^ a b Forrest, Richard (20 November 2007). "Liopleurodon". The Plesiosaur Site. Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  10. ^ a b McHenry, Colin Richard (2009). "Devourer of Gods: the palaeoecology of the Cretaceous pliosaur Kronosaurus queenslandicus" (PDF). pp. 1–460. 
  11. ^ a b Benson, RBJ; Evans M; Smith AS; Sassoon J; Moore-Faye S; et al. (2013). "A Giant Pliosaurid Skull from the Late Jurassic of England". PLoS ONE 8 (5): 1–34. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065989. 
  12. ^ Benson, RBJ; Druckenmiller PS (2013). "Faunal turnover of marine tetrapods during the Jurassic–Cretaceous transition". Biological Reviews. doi:10.1111/brv.12038. 
  13. ^ Hilary F. Ketchum and Roger B. J. Benson (2011). "A new pliosaurid (Sauropterygia, Plesiosauria) from the Oxford Clay Formation (Middle Jurassic, Callovian) of England: evidence for a gracile, longirostrine grade of Early-Middle Jurassic pliosaurids". Special Papers in Palaeontology 86: 109–129. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4983.2011.01083.x. 
  14. ^ Schumacher, B. A.; Carpenter, K.; Everhart, M. J. (2013). "A new Cretaceous Pliosaurid (Reptilia, Plesiosauria) from the Carlile Shale (middle Turonian) of Russell County, Kansas". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 33 (3): 613. doi:10.1080/02724634.2013.722576.  edit

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