Mr. Nature: Elasmosaurus

Jambo! Mr. Nature here; and today’s safari takes us to the inland sea of what is now Kansas–and Elasmosaurus, one of God’s creations that has puzzled science for over 100 years.

This was a plesiosaur, a marine reptile, with an insanely long neck. There were many species of plesiosaurs, all following basically the same body pattern… which can be described as a snake with the body of a sea turtle. Many artists have depicted the Elasmosaurus’ neck performing wild twists and turns and arabesques, but the actual skeleton doesn’t support that. The neck was probably much less flexible than that.

One of America’s two greatest 19th-century paleontologists, Edward Cope, reconstructed Elasmosaurus with the head attached to the tail. Legend has it that the other greatest paleontologist, Othniel Marsh, publicly shamed Cope by pointing out his error (“Ha, ha, you did it backwards!”)–after which the two scientists became mortal enemies locked in a fierce competition which has come to be called “the Bone Wars.”

We still don’t know how this animal reproduced itself or how it used its preposterous neck. (Not as crazy as the neck of Tanystropheus, but it seems that where prehistoric animals are concerned, anything goes.) Well, it must have worked efficiently, or there would have been no Elasmosaurs.

I really love these weird creatures, even if I can’t explain how they managed their everyday lives.

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