Dolichorhynchops – A Prehistoric Hunter

Dolichorhynchops (pronounced Dol-ee-koh-rin-kops) was a short-necked Plesiosaur from the late Cretaceous. Two species of this marine reptile are known, the first to be named and described (the largest species known), is called Dolichorhynchops osborni.  The name means “long snout face” and a glimpse at the long, narrow jaws is proof of this animal’s apt name.  The first fossils of this creature, called the holotype, were found by George Sternberg, the teenage son of the American palaeontologist Charles Sternberg.  The species name is in honour of another American palaeontologist Henry Fairfield Osborn, one of the leading scientists in this field at the time of the Dolichorhynchops discovery.

Osborn, is perhaps best known for naming and describing Tyrannosaurus rex in 1905, although his contribution to palaeontology was much greater than this.  He was president of the American Museum of Natural History in New York from 1908 until 1935.

Ironically, for an animal named in honour of the man who was to name and describe the fearsome T. rex; Dolichorhynchops lived in an environment that has been nick-named “hells aquarium”.  Dolichorhynchops shared its watery world, known as the Western Interior Seaway with fierce predators such as the giant Mosasaurs and huge meat-eating fish such as the swift and powerful Xiphactinus, a fish that could reach lengths in excess of six metres.

The Western Interior Seaway covered much of North America during the late Cretaceous, at some times during the very end of the Age of Reptiles it stretched from the Gulf of Mexico right up to the Arctic circle.

A Scale Drawing of Dolichorhynchops

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The team members at Everything Dinosaur, have just added a soft toy Dolichorhynchops to their prehistoric animal series, a companion to their other sea monster soft toy a Megalodon (giant shark).

To view the marine prehistoric animal soft toys and dinosaurs: Dinosaur Stuffed Animals

From the illustration above, it can be seen that Dolichorhynchops was quite a large animal.  Scientists have estimated that this marine reptile could grow up to 5 metres in length.  It was a nektonic creature, this means that it was an active swimmer, using its strong flippers to “fly” through the water a bit like a penguin.

It would have been very agile and a fast swimmer, helpful when you shared the water with Tylosaurus for example.  Tylosaurus was a huge Mosasaur, a fossilised Tylosaur has been found with parts of a young Dolichorhynchops preserved with it.  Scientists believe that the Dolichorhynchops had been eaten by the Tylosaurus.

The jaws of Dolichorhynchops, although long were not very powerful.  The jaws were lined with between forty and sixty, sharp teeth.  Analysis of the scars on the fossilised jaw bone where muscles would have been attached indicate that Dolichorhynchops had relatively weak jaws.  Scientists believe that this short-necked Plesiosaur specialised in hunting squid and small fish.

It is wonderful to find a soft toy of a marine reptile, a Plesiosaur at that and this Dolichorhynchops soft toy makes a super addition our range of dinosaur soft toys.

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