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Liopleurodon

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It is a spectacular figure and is by far the most accurate pliosaur toy reviewed on The Dinosaur Toy Blog so far. All of the Walking with Dinosaurs figures are almost perfectly symmetrical, which is a let down in most of the figures which appear to be just ‘standing around’. However, this is not so much of an issue in the aquatic Liopleurodon. The figure is 24cm long. There was no substantial evidence to support this claim, but the series’ producers used this outrageous size anyway. I agree with McHenry that the reconstruction may have been based on the ‘Stewartby Pliosaur’ supplemented with information from other pliosaurs, possibly the lectotype of ‘ Stretosaurus’. But it is misleading to call the reconstruction ‘ Stretosaurus‘, especially since significant portions of the Newman & Tarlo reconstruction are implicitly based on Liopleurodon ferox (The ‘Stewartby Pliosaur’). To my eye the hind limb in the reconstruction does resemble the ‘Stewartby Pliosaur’ (from what is visible in the photograph) more than the ‘Stretham Pliosaur’. A PLIOSAUR ( LIOPLEURODON) Benson, R.B.J.; Evans, M; Smith, A.S.; Sassoon, J.; Moore-Faye S.; Ketchum, H.F. and Forrest, R. 2013. A Giant Pliosaurid Skull from the Late Jurassic of England. PLoS ONE 8(5): e65989. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0065989

Although it’s challenging to get the accurate appearance of the animal with so little evidence of its existence, paleontologists have drawn inspiration from general pliosaur anatomy.

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Figure from Newman & Tarlo (1967) showing the articulated hind flipper of the ‘Stewartby Pliosaur’ ( Liopleurodon ferox). It’s a photocopy of a photocopy, hence the terrible quality, so if anyone has a scan I’d be glad to hear from you. Making sense of the Newman & Tarlo reconstruction The full and complicated story of the ‘Stretham Pliosaur’ specimen (OXFUM J.35990) is one for another day, but in short it is a substantially complete pliosaur from the Kimmeridge Clay, named ‘ Stretosaurus‘ macromerus by Tarlo (1959) and later reattributed by him (Halstead, 1989) to Liopleurodon macromerus. The Stretham skeleton was retained as the lectotype of Pliosaurus macromerus by Knutsen (2012) but referred to Pliosaurus cf. kevani by Benson et al. (2013) – either way, it is Pliosaurus, not Liopleurodon. Also, most of these marine reptiles had similar diets, which consisted of cephalopods and other sea creatures. Some were also known to be scavengers when the situation called for it.

This does not negate that the Liopleurodon was one of the largest animals about 160 million years ago. McHenry (2009) suggested that the reconstruction “ may have been based upon StretosaurusTarlo, 1959″ (p.258) and added that “From vertebral counts of the different body segments and general proportions of the skull it undoubtedly represents a large pliosaurid, perhaps‘ Stretosaurus’( Pliosaurus macromerus)” (p. 370). McHenry also noted that “Tarlo… seemed to imply that the reconstruction was partly based upon the Stretham specimen…”(p.359), and subsequently refers to the reconstruction as the “‘Newman and Tarlo Stretosaurus‘ reconstruction, or the ‘ Stretosaurus’ reconstruction” (e.g. p. 370) and says the reconstruction is “ apparently based upon the Stewartby and Stretham specimens” (p. 370). I’ve bolded key parts to highlight that there’s no direct evidence for this assertion – not that I disagree with it. They also believe that they weighed 2200-3700 pounds, sometimes more than that, making this species one of the world’s biggest and strongest predatory animals. It is easy to guess that these species competed with Liopleurodon for food, although they were also likely prey to this creature because of its huge size and position on the food chain. In addition, the animal was portrayed as mostly toothless, only possessing a crescent of curved fangs which extended from the front of the upper and lower jaws.Although the Liopleurodon was a giant animal, it was not as big as the Australian giant Kronosaurus, which had a maximum length of 36 feet.

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