5 Top Facts about the Plesiosaur ~ #BlogTour ~ The Plesiosaur’s Neck by Dr Adam S. Smith, Jonathan Emmett & Adam Larkum

It’s my stop on the blog tour for The Plesiosaur’s Neck written by Dr Adam S. Smith and Jonathan Emmett and illustrated by Adam Larkum. I am thrilled to be featuring a fascinating guest post by Dr Adam Smith!

The Plesiosaur’s Neck written by Dr Adam S. Smith and Jonathan Emmett and illustrated by Adam Larkum

But first, a little bit about this gorgeous picture book. The cover intrigued my daughter – what was this creature with a looooooong neck? We were introduced to the lovely Poppy the plesiosaur and a few friends, Alfie Ammonite and Bella Belemnite who pop up throughout the book.

The Plesiosaur’s Neck written by Dr Adam S. Smith and Jonathan Emmett and illustrated by Adam Larkum

Each spread explores a different suggestion of what the plesiosaur’s neck might have been used for, through expertly constructed rhyme.

There’s one thing about her that’s hard to ignore, THAT RIDICULOUS NECK!  What on Earth was it for?

The bouncy short text is perfect if reading to young readers as it will hold their attention. You can then intersperse the fun chat between Alfie and Bella – my daughter loved this. For older readers, there is a longer fact box on each spread which unpacks the rhyming suggestion of how Poppy used her neck.

The Plesiosaur’s Neck written by Dr Adam S. Smith and Jonathan Emmett and illustrated by Adam Larkum

So, I bet you’re wondering, what IS the plesiosaur’s neck for? Well, I’m certainly not going to tell you! But here is the renowned plesiosaur expert Dr Adam S. Smith to tell you five top plesiosaur facts (that aren’t about their long necks!)…

Dr Adam and a plesiosaur, July 2014. 
Image credit: plesiosauria.com
Dr Adam and a plesiosaur, July 2014.
Image credit: plesiosauria.com

Many plesiosaurs had incredible and uniquely long necks, but this group of prehistoric sea reptiles are also special for other reasons. Here are my top five facts about plesiosaurs that aren’t about their long necks! As you’ll find out, their long necks are just one of many mysterious and curious things about them.

1. Plesiosaurs swallowed stones

Many fossilised plesiosaur skeletons have been found with dozens of pebbles preserved in a clump between their ribs – right where the stomach was. Plesiosaurs certainly swallowed these stones on purpose, but we aren’t sure why. Maybe the stones helped to grind up crunchy food in their tummy, or perhaps they provided ballast to stop them from floating up to the water’s surface.

Stones, or ‘gastroliths’, inside the ribcage of a plesiosaur. (Photo by Emily Bamforth, used with kind permission).
Stones, or ‘gastroliths’, inside the ribcage of a plesiosaur
(Photo by Emily Bamforth, used with kind permission).

2. Plesiosaurs had four flippers

Plesiosaurs are the only group of sea animals, living or extinct, with two pairs of large wing-like flippers. They used these to propel themselves through the water by flapping them up and down. All other animals that ‘fly’ underwater like this, such as penguins and turtles, have only one pair of flippers. Since four-flippered flappy plesiosaurs are unique, how they moved their four flippers relative to each other is still an active area of research for palaeontologists. Maybe plesiosaurs moved all four of their flippers up and down at the same time, or maybe they alternated them.

A top view of a plesiosaur showing its four large wing-like flippers. (Image by Adam S. Smith).
A top view of a plesiosaur showing its four large wing-like flippers
(Image by Adam S. Smith).

3. Plesiosaurs had a tail fin

Plesiosaurs are often depicted with a simple tail that tapers to a point. However, a growing body of fossil evidence suggests that some species, at least, also had a fin at the tip of their tail. Only the hard parts of plesiosaurs usually become fossils – the bones and teeth. The tail fin, on the other hand, was made of soft tissues, which only rarely get preserved. The tail fin in plesiosaurs may have helped them to steer. This is why we made sure Poppy Plesiosaur has a small tail fin in ‘The Plesiosaur’s Neck’.

Illustration of a fossilised plesiosaur tail showing the preserved outline of a soft tissue tail fin (from Dames, 1895).
Illustration of a fossilised plesiosaur tail showing
the preserved outline of a soft tissue tail fin (from Dames, 1895).

4. Plesiosaurs breathed air

Plesiosaurs had lungs, like other reptiles, so they couldn’t breathe underwater. They had to come to the surface to breathe air. This is because their reptile ancestors lived and breathed air on the land. However, we don’t know if plesiosaurs breathed through their mouth, nostrils, or both. Maybe, like whales, they blew a thunderous spray into the air when they came to the surface to breathe. We also don’t know how long plesiosaurs could hold their breath for!

An artist’s depiction of a plesiosaur swimming up to the surface to breathe. (Image ã Dmitry Bogdanov, CC BY-SA 3.0).
An artist’s depiction of a plesiosaur swimming up to the surface to breathe
(Image ã Dmitry Bogdanov, CC BY-SA 3.0).

5. Plesiosaurs gave birth to live babies

Most reptiles lay eggs, and they must lay them on land because the babies inside would drown if they were laid under water. This is why sea turtles, which spend most of their life in water, have to heave themselves awkwardly onto the land to lay their eggs on the beach. Plesiosaurs are reptiles, too, but they found a different solution: they didn’t lay eggs at all. A fossil of a pregnant plesiosaur proves that they gave birth to live young, in the sea. So, plesiosaurs spent their whole lives living in the ocean and never came onto the land. A new-born baby plesiosaur’s first task was to swim up to the water’s surface to get its first gulp of air.

An artist’s depiction of a plesiosaur giving birth. (Image ã N. Tamura, CC BY-SA 3.0).
An artist’s depiction of a plesiosaur giving birth.
(Image ã N. Tamura, CC BY-SA 3.0).

So, plesiosaurs are such wonderfully unique creatures! Much more interesting than dinosaurs, don’t you agree!?

We most definitely do agree! Thank you so much Adam.

Published by UCLan Publishing, 6 May 2021

Buy Now!

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour!

The Plesiosaur’s Neck written by Dr Adam S. Smith and Jonathan Emmett and illustrated by Adam Larkum blog tour

I am very grateful to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book. This feature and voluntary review contains my honest opinion.

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