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WHAT IS SUCHASAURUS?
Having recently (14-9-96) attended the 6th Southampton Mineral and Fossil Fair,
I learn that, apparently, some Wealden theropod teeth have been referred to a
taxon called _Suchasaurus_. I haven't yet had time to look this up, but the name
is new to me. What the hell is it?
While on small theropods, during a visit last week to the Dorset County Museum,
Dorchester, I was interested to learn that the type of _Nuthetes_ was kept
there. An information board (about 30 years old, such is the state of our
museums) informed the reader of the presence and location of the fossil, but
alas, t'was not there. Shame, as I was thinking a look at the thing might
actually give me some idea as to what the hell it *was*. Is this yet another
animal floating in palaeozoological limbo?
The reason for both of these visits is for, of course, those
spectacular marine reptiles. Colin McHenry and I presented a poster at
last week's Aquatic Tetrapods Conference in which we outlined some
tentative scenarios for analogy between the Oxford Clay marine fauna
and the modern Caribbean/Mexican Gulf fauna (abstract in the symposium
volume). A lot has come out of this. The poster features (ASAIK) the
first ever lateral reconstruction of _Simolestes vorax_ (it turns out
to be rather unspectacular), and highlights indeed the remarkable
convergences that have occurred between Mesozoic marine reptiles and
Cainozoic cetaceans and carnivorans. I'd elaborate, but I'd be here
all day and I doubt if anyone's interested any case..
While in Dorchester, my intention was to examine the huge type
specimen of _Liopleurodon (=_Stretosaurus_) macromerus_ [labelled as
_Pliosaurus macromerus_], but to my dismay it was no longer on
display. A guide took me behind the scenes, where the specimen is
languishing in a dark store room. News to me was that the animal had
had the end of its snout bitten off - presumably by another pliosaur!
As to its taxonomic allocation, I am hopelessly confused. With 5 big
caniniforms, it would seem (by reference to Tarlo/Halstead's major
review of 1960) to belong to _Liopleurodon_. Yet Colin, who has looked
at loads of these things with Leslie Noe, says it [generic allocation]
dissolves into a complete mess when you take all factors into
account. The same specimen also has teeth that are triangular in
x-section, a characteristic of _Pliosaurus_. Whatever, this is one
big pliosaur... outclassed, however, by _Kronosaurus_ (Australia and
S. America, so no snatching of acrocanthosaurs thankyou!), Wyoming's
_Megalneurosaurus_... and, a new, even bigger one.. guess I better
keep my lips tight on that for now.
Most of the talks and posters at the Conference were concerned with
extant seals, whales and sirenians. There were a few things on
mosasaurs, thallatosaurs and ichthyosaurs, however, and, get this,
Elizabeth Nicholls has a (possibly) marine rauisuchian!
The mineral and fossil fair included the first complete skeletal restoration I
have yet seen of a _Plesiosaurus_: _P. dolichodeirus_. _Plesiosaurus_ is
enigmatic and seems to house a lot of undiagnosed taxonomic variety (as is the
way with poorly reviewed taxa): Glen Storrs, apparently, will be looking at the
lot and showing how different they really are. This plesiosaur had a long, low
head, and, of course, lots of pointy teeth. What else matters?
Bones of giant Cretaceous fish _Xiphactinus_ and of Oxford Clay planktonivore
_Leedsichthys_ were of major interest for me, I was mug enough to buy a 6 inch
_Carcharocles/Carcharodon_ (take your pick) tooth and the distal end of a
humerus (probably _Muraenosaurus_).
Have just returned from meeting with Gareth Dyke, who spent the summer working
on both Egg Mountain with Horner, and on various bits with Dave Varrichio. He
has new material of a daspletosaur. Cool. And... be prepared for *big* news out
of Egg Mountain... *big* news...