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Re: 3 answers about Tanystropheus (long)
For some reason my Eudora was not able to repeat your message in the reply.
Anyway, patrickmellor asked:
1) about how many Tanystropheus there are:
There are several skeletons of Tanystropheus. Housed in Zuerich (at least
8-9 specimens) and in Milano.
Check Wild (1973) Schweizerisches Palaeontologisches Abhandlugen vol. 95
for a survey of *published* specimens and again Wild (1980) - same journal
- vol. 102 , for additional Tanystropheus species from Switzerland and
Northern Italy. Wild published also a note on some material from Germany he
called Tanystropheus antiquus, but this latter animal has 8-9 cervicals
instead of 12 and other differences that make me suspect it is not a
Besides these specimens there are currently fragmentary new specimens From
Friuli (NE Italy) published By Fabio dalla Vecchia (2000) in Riv. It.
Paleont. Strat. 106 (2), and other new specimens from Lombardy, i. e.
collected on the italian side of the outcrop that yelded also the Swiss
specimens. They are magnificent as preservation quality but are currently
under study (sadly) not by me ...
So I cannot tell more without permission.
2) Concerning the neck and diet of Tanystropheus:
Karl Tschanz (Zuerich) made his doctoral thesis on it and published part
of his work on Palaeontology 1988, v.31 997-1011.
In his thesis he suggested the neck was stiff and supported by ribs and it
was mobile only close to the skull. According to Tschanz, Tanystropheus
swum (with what? tail? hind limbs?) close to preys, then darted the head
for a small tract seizing it, while most of the neck was always stiff and
kept straight. Why such a long stiff neck? If I remember correctly he
suggested that the head set off from the body should have been less
impressive for potential preys which otherwis would have been scared by the
big trunk (Mmmm... I disagree here, a fish would be scare also by that face
full of fangs!).
On the other hand such a neck is embarrassing in any environment, as I
3) about the presence of tendons or elastic ligaments.
It is too long for a mail, but I was impressed by the backward bending of
the neck in one of the new specimens and the way in which the ribs were
detached, like there was something dorsal to the neck so robust to set off
the ribs from their reciprocal connections. A picture should be useful but
it should be unfair (not being under study by me) to put it online.
"Before being enlightened, hard work; after enlightenment, hard work"
Dr. Silvio Renesto
Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra
Università degli Studi di Milano
via Mangiagalli 34
I 20133 Milano