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ELEPHANTS & PLESIOSAURS



Rob Gay wrote...

> If you look at modern animals,
> particularly elephants, you'll see that while African Elephants
> possess large ears used for display and thermoregulation to some
> extent, their Indian cousins have much reduced ears, still used for
> display, but are forest dwellers. Does this imply that even in hot
> forests, external thermoregulatory apparatus are less important? 

An interesting thing to point out whenever elephant ears are 
discussed is that _Loxodonta_ was, until late in the 
Pleistocene, a relatively diminutive forest dweller (extant 
_L. cyclotis_ is probably a primitive relict with respect to 
ecology and habitat choice) while _Elephas_ was actually 
the dominant savannah elephant. Most of the elephantid 
material at African Pliocene and Pleistocene grassland/open 
woodland sites, for example, is _Elephas_. Needless to say 
(as Greg Paul has pointed out before) this all casts doubt on 
the idea that _Loxodonta_ has big ears purely for 
thermoregulation in open habitats.. assuming that fossil 
species of these genera had ears similar to those of the 
living species that is.

_Leedsichthys_ dig (still ongoing, looks like it will be 
summer-long) was amazing success but am not allowed to 
talk about it! Arthur Cruickshank, Leslie Noe, Richard 
Forrest, Alan Dawn and Mark Evans were all on site, so as 
you might imagine it was a veritable plesiosaur-fest. We 
also had Sarah Earland (doing her phd on Kimmeridge Clay 
vertebrates), Kate Anderson (working on plesiosaur bite 
marks) and of course Dave Martill (who has excavated 
more Oxford Clay vertebrates that anyone I think... except 
Alfred Leeds). Jeff Liston, well known over here because he 
is in charge of the Dinosaur Society, was on site for part of 
the dig (had to leave part-way through for a fish conference 
in Bulgaria) and is the one that will be working on the fish 
when it's out of the ground. Peterborough Museum, which I 
hadn't visited before, is a sight to behold with incredible 
specimens of _Steneosaurus_, _Metriorhynchus_, 
_Ophthalmosaurus_, _Simolestes_, _Cryptoclidus_ and 
_Pachycostasaurus_ all on display. News that will be of 
interest to some...

-- The relatively complete Liassic plesiosaur discovered and 
prepared by Pete Blake (incorrectly said by me in my 
SVPCA 1999 report to be rhomaleosaur-like) has been 
purchased by Leicester Museum and Art Gallery and will 
hopefully get worked on by Mark Evans. This animal is 
strange and hard to place phylogenetically. Definitely new.

-- Arthur Cruickshank pronounced _Kaiwhekea_ as it's 
written. He might have changed his mind following a 
discussion we had about it (homage to Creisler:)).

-- Most workers seem a bit unhappy with Robin O'Keefe's 
contention that _Muraenosaurus_ is a cryptoclidid, but 
Mark Evans (who has been working on muraenosaur skulls 
- I think there are now five of them) didn't seem that 
unhappy. As his own work has shown, muraenosaurs are 
pretty much the same as cryptoclidids s. l. in several 
features.

-- Leslie Noe is preparing several publications that result 
from his detailed thesis work on the short-snouted Oxford 
Clay pliosaurs (predominantly _Liopleurodon_ and 
_Simolestes_) as well as stuff on a new S. American genus. 

-- Richard Forrest's work on vertebral measurements has 
recently thrown up (if you will) some really fantastic and 
intriguing results: data to be presented at SVPCA 
Cambridge this year hopefully. I have also been asking 
Richard about his work on plesiosaur bite marks... this 
might get published but right now Kate Anderson (Bristol 
University) is also studying this area. There is reasonable 
evidence that long-necked plesiosaurs were getting bitten on 
their paddles by members of the same species, and 
preferentially getting bitten on the left foreflipper IIRC!!

-- A new species of _Microcleidus_ is in the works.

Darren Naish
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
University of Portsmouth
Burnaby Building
Burnaby Road                           email: 
darren.naish@port.ac.uk
Portsmouth UK                          tel: 023 92846045                   
PO1 3QL                                www.palaeobiology.co.uk