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*Mauisaurus* vs large pterosaurs
Considering elasmosaurs, and taking Mauisaurus as the extreme example: if one
takes the small steps of assuming an ability to control buoyancy, and a
'breath-holding' capacity to be expected in a large aquatic animal, then the
ability to 'tread water' w/ the long axis of the body oriented vertically, and
the nose at the surface is a given. It is my admittedly 'seat-of-the-pants'
opinion that their design is actually quite appropriate to such behavior.
Further, propelling the main body upward until the entire neck is in the air is
trivial. In Mauisaurus, this exercise would end w/ the head 12-15m above the
water surface, assuming the main body did not breach.
Thus, any pterosaur below that altitude would be well w/in reach of the mouth
of a large elasmosaur. Assuming an ability to bend the neck 30 degrees in any
direction, there is a large cone (approximately 12m in diameter, assuming a 10m
neck) wherein 'adjustments' could be made at the end of a strike that begins w/
the nose at the water's surface. Even a flex of 15 degrees gives an approximate
cone of 6m. Almost any contact w/ a pterosaur's wing could knock it out of the
air, even if no grip was attained by elasmosaurid teeth. Large pterosaurs would
logically be more vulnerable to this type of attack than smaller, being less
Further, an elasmosaur swimming below the surface in clear water could
accelerate at a positive angle of 25 or 30 degrees relative to horizontal.
Given a 15m neck, this would put the head approximately 10 m above the water
surface when the main body breached the surface. Pterosaurs 'hover-fishing'
into the wind might have a groundspeed near zero, and therefore would be quite
vulnerable to cruising elasmosaurs. Any pterosaur actually sitting on the water
would be a 'dead duck', of course.
Note that the largest pterosaurs and the largest elasmosaurs co-existed, and a
'first-glance' seems to show a size correlation between the animals through
It is my opinion that the speculation that the long-necked plesiosaurs may have
been adapted to be significant predators of marine volants generally, and large
pterosaurs in particular, is justified. Even the relatively stiff neck would be
advantageous. (Read "giant pterosaur-killing arrows"...)
I have never seen this seemingly obvious idea in print, though, nor heard it
advanced in conversation. Does anyone have a reference to the contrary,
rebuttal, criticism or comment?
Basic elasmosaur morphology taken from the Wikipedia (the source of first, not
last resort) "Plesiosaur" article.