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News Link • Biology, Botany and Zoology

Albertonectes Was an Extreme Elasmosaur

•, By Brian Switek
So do you, and, for that matter, most mammals. (Sloths and manatees are among the few oddballs that differ.) Short or long, mammal necks are typically supported by just seven bones. But other creatures played by different anatomical rules. The fantastic sauropod dinosaurs – such as the familiar Diplodocus and what may have been the largest terrestrial animal ever, Amphicoelias – had a higher number of intricately modified neck vertebrae. One of my favorite dinosaurs, Apatosaurus, had 15 neck vertebrae.

Other prehistoric creatures racked on even more bones. And paleontologists may have just identified the animal with the highest cervical vertebra count of all time. In the latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, researchers Tai Kubo, Mark Mitchell, and Donald Henderson describe a new elasmosaur from the roughly 70-million-year-old rock of Alberta, Canada’s Bearpaw Formation. They have named the quad-paddled, long-necked marine reptile Albertonectes vanderveldei, and, while the creature’s skull went missing, the rest of the plesiosaur is represented by a nearly complete skeleton that stretched about 37 feet long in life. 

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