Sven Sachs is an associate researcher and palaeontological adviser at the Naturkunde-Museum in Bielefeld, Germany. His research over the past 20 years has focused on marine reptiles and dinosaurs. Sven is currently involved in a number of projects to explore the taxonomic relationships, lifestyles and habits of plesiosaurs and other marine reptiles of the Mesozoic era, including thalattosuchians.
by Mark T. Young*1, Sven Sachs2 & Pascal Abel3
To most people, crocodilians are large-bodied carnivores that have been unchanged since the age of the dinosaurs. However, during their 230 million-year history, modern crocodilians and their extinct relatives evolved a stunning diversity of body plans, with many looking very different from those alive today (crocodiles, alligators, caimans and gharials).
The first crocodylomorphs (the term used for living crocs and various fossil groups) are known from the Late Triassic Period, approximately 235 million to 237 million years ago. These animals lived on land and looked much more like a greyhound than a crocodile, with long legs and a skull that was deep like that of a meat-eating dinosaur, rather than flattened like that
by Sven Sachs1 and Benjamin P. Kear2
Elasmosaurs were a group of marine reptiles that lived during the Cretaceous period (about 145 million to 66 million years ago). They were fully adapted to an aquatic lifestyle, and had a distinctive body plan comprising a compact, streamlined body, long, paddle-like limbs and an extremely elongated neck with a large number of vertebrae (Fig. 1). The first named elasmosaur was Elasmosaurus platyurus from the Late Cretaceous (Campanian stage, about 83.6 million to 72.1 million years ago). It was found in Kansas and described by the famous US scientist Edward Drinker Cope (1840–97, Fig. 2), who, when he first wrote about it in 1868, believed that the almost complete series of 72 neck vertebrae came from a massively long tail. Today, many