Skip to content Skip to navigation

Article: Cranial anatomy, taxonomic implications and palaeopathology of an Upper Jurassic Pliosaur (Reptilia: Sauropterygia) from Westbury, Wiltshire, UK

Publication: Palaeontology
Volume: 55
Part: 4
Publication Date: July 2012
Page(s): 743 773
Author(s): Judyth Sassoon, Leslie F. Noe and Michael J. Benton
Addition Information

How to Cite

SASSOON, J., NOÈ, L. F., BENTON, M. J. 2012. Cranial anatomy, taxonomic implications and palaeopathology of an Upper Jurassic Pliosaur (Reptilia: Sauropterygia) from Westbury, Wiltshire, UK. Palaeontology55, 4, 743–773.

Online Version Hosted By

Wiley Online Library
Get Article: Wiley Online Library [Pay-to-View Access] |


  • ANDRADE, M. B., YOUNG, M. T., DESOJO, J. B. and BRUSATTE, S. L. 2010. The evolution of extreme hypercarnivory in Metriorhynchidae (Mesoeucrocodylia: Thalattosuchia): evidence from microscopic denticle morphology and a new tri-faceted Kimmeridgian tooth from Germany. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 30, 1451–1465.
  • ANDREWS, C. W. 1895. On the development of the shoulder-girdle of a plesiosaur (Cryptoclidus oxoniensis, Phillips, sp.) from the Oxford Clay. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, 6, 333–346.
  • ANDREWS, C. W. 1897. On the structure of the skull of a pliosaur. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London, 53, 177–185.
  • ANDREWS, C. W. 1910. A descriptive catalogue of the marine reptiles of the Oxford Clay – based on the Leeds collection in the British Museum (Natural History), London, Part I. British Museum (Natural History), London, xxiii + 202 pp.
  • ANDREWS, C. W. 1913. A Descriptive Catalogue of the marine Reptiles of the Oxford Clay–based on the Leeds Collection in the British Museum (Natural History), London, Part II. British Museum (Natural History), London, xviv + 206 pp.
  • BAKKER, R. T. 1993. Plesiosaur extinction cycles–Events that mark the beginning, middle and end of the Cretaceous. 641–664. In Evolution of the Western Interior Basin. Geological Association of Canada Special Paper, 39, 680 pp.
  • BARDET, N. and GODEFROIT, P. 1998. A preliminary cladistic analysis of the Plesiosauria. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 18, 26A.
  • BARDET, N., MAZIN, J. and MARTIN, M. 1993. Une mandibule de Pliosaurus brachyspondylus (Reptilia, Sauropterygia) dans le Kimméridgien du Boulonnais (France). Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Palontologie, Monatshefte, 7, 385–397.
  • BARDET, N., LACHKAR, G. and ESCUILLE, F. 1994. Présence à l’Oxfordien de Pliosaurus brachyspondylus (Reptilia, Pliosauridae) déterminée par les données palynologiques. Revue de Micropaléontologie, 37, 181–188.
  • BARDET, N., FERNANDEZ, M., GARCIA-RAMOS, J. C., PINUELA, L., PEREDA SUPERBIOLA, X. and VINCENT, P. 2008. Pliensbachian (Lower Jurassic) plesiosaurs: a juvenile specimen from Asturias, Spain. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 28, 258–263.
  • BIRKELUND, T., CALLOMON, J. H., CLAUSEN, C. K., NØHR HANSEN, H. and SALINAS, I. 1983. The Lower Kimmeridge Clay at Westbury, Wiltshire, England. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, 94, 289–309.
  • BROWN, D. S. 1981. The English Upper Jurassic Plesiosauroidea (Reptilia) and a review of the phylogeny and classification of the Plesiosauria. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Geology Series, 35, 253–344.
  • BRUSATTE, S. L., BENSON, R. B. J., CARR, T. D., WILLIAMSON, T. E. and SERENO, P. C. 2007. The systematic utility of theropod enamel wrinkles. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 27, 1052–1056.
  • CALDWELL, M. W. 1997. Limb osteology and ossification patterns in Cryptoclidus (Reptilia: Plesiosauroidea) with a review of sauropterygian limbs. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 17, 295–307.
  • CALDWELL, M. W. 2007. Ontogeny, anatomy and attachment of the dentition in mosasaurs (Mosasauridae: Squamata). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 149, 687–700.
  • CARPENTER, K. 1996. A review of short-necked plesiosaurs from the Cretaceous of the Western Interior, North America. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Palontologie, Abhandlungen, 201, 259–287.
  • CARPENTER, K. 1997. Comparative cranial anatomy of two North American Cretaceous plesiosaurs. 191–213. In CALLOWAY, J. M. and NICHOLLS, E. L. (eds). Ancient marine reptiles. Academic Press, San Diego, 501 pp.
  • COX, R. M., BUTLER, M. A. and JOHN-ALDER, H. B. 2007. The evolution of sexual size dimorphism in reptiles. 38–49. In FAIRBAIRN, D. J., BLANCKENHORN, W. U. and SZEKELY, T. (eds). Sex, size and gender roles: evolutionary studies of sexual size dimorphism. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 280 pp.
  • CRUICKSHANK, A. R. I. 1994. Juvenile plesiosaur (Plesiosauria: Reptilia) from the Lower Lias (Hettangian: Lower Jurassic) of Lyme Regis, England: a pliosauroid-plesiosauroid intermediate? Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 120, 281–354.
  • CRUICKSHANK, A. R. I., SMALL, P. G. and TAYLOR, M. A. 1991. Dorsal nostrils and hydrodynamically driven underwater olfaction in plesiosaurs. Nature, 352, 62–64.
  • DE BLAINVILLE, M. H. 1835. Description de quelques espèces de reptiles de la Californie précédée de l’analyse d’un système général d’érpetologie et d’amphibiologie. Nouvelles Annales du Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de Paris, 3, 233–272.
  • DRUCKENMILLER, P. S. 1999. Osteology and relationships of a new plesiosaur from the Thermopolis Shale of Montana. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 19, 42A.
  • DRUCKENMILLER, P. S. 2002a. Depositional environments of an Early Cretaceous plesiosaur and ichthyosaur assemblage from the Clearwater Formation, Western Interior Basin. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 22 (Suppl.), 50A.
  • DRUCKENMILLER, P. S. 2002b. Osteology of a new plesiosaur from the Lower Cretaceous (Albian) Thermopolis Shale of Montana. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 22, 29–42.
  • DRUCKENMILLER, P. S. and RUSSELL, A. P. 2008. A phylogeny of Plesiosauria (Sauropterygia) and its bearing on the systematic status of Leptocleidus Andrews, 1922. Zootaxa, 1863, 1–120.
  • EDMUND, A. G. 1960. Tooth replacement phenomena in the lower vertebrates. Royal Ontario Museum, Life Sciences Division, Contributions, 52, 1–190.
  • EDMUND, A. G. 1969. Dentition. 117–200. In GANS, C., BELLAIRS, A. d’A. and PARSONS, T. S. (eds). Biology of the Reptilia. Academic Press, London, 117–200 pp.
  • FRAAS, E. 1910. Plesiosaurier aus dem oberen Lias von Holzmaden. Palaeontographica, 57, 105–140.
  • GASPARINI, Z., BARDET, N., MARTIN, J. E. and FERNANDEZ, M. 2003. The elasmosaurid plesiosaur Aristonectes cabrera from the latest Cretaceous of South America and Antarctica. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 23, 104–115.
  • GLUCKSMAN, A. 1974. Sexual dimorphism in mammals. Biological Reviews, 49, 423–475.
  • GODEFROIT, P. 1994. Simolestes keileni sp. nov., un pliosaure (Plesiosauria, Reptilia) du Bajocien Supérieur du Lorraine (France). Bulletin des Académie et Société Lorraines des Sciences, 33, 77–95.
  • GÓMEZ-PÉREZ, M. 2008. The palaeobiology of an exceptionally preserved Colombian pliosaur (Sauropterygia: Plesiosauria). Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, xv + 243 pp.
  • GRANGE, D. R., STORRS, G. W., CARPENTER, S. and ETCHES, S. 1996. An important vertebrate-bearing locality from the Lower Kimmeridge Clay (Upper Jurassic) of Westbury, Wiltshire. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, 107, 107–116.
  • GROSSMANN, F. 2007. Preliminary description and phylogenetic position of the Plesiosauroidea from the Lower Jurassic Posidonia Shale of south-west Germany. Palaeontology, 50, 545–564.
  • HALSTEAD, L. B. 1989. Plesiosaur locomotion. Journal of the Geological Society, London, 146, 37–40.
  • HAMPE, O. 1992. Ein großwüchsiger Pliosauride (Reptilia: Plesiosauria) aus der Unterkreide (oberes Aptium) von Kolumbien. Courier Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg, 145, 1–32.
  • KEAR, B. P. 2007. A juvenile pliosauroid plesiosaur (Reptilia: Sauropterygia) from the Lower Cretaceous of South Australia. Journal of Paleontology, 81, 154–162.
  • KETCHUM, H. F. and BENSON, R. B. J. 2010. Global interrelationships of Plesiosauria (Reptilia, Sauropterygia) and the pivotal role of taxon sampling in determining the outcome of phylogenetic analyses. Biological Reviews, 85, 361–392.
  • LAURENTI, J. N. 1768. Specimen Medicum, exhibens Synopsin Reptilium Emendatam cum Experimentis circa Venena et Antidota Reptilium Austriacorum. Joan. Thom. Nob. de Trattnern, Vienna, 214 pp.
  • LINDER, H. 1913. Beitrge zur Kenntnis der Plesiosaurier–Gattungen Peloneustes und Pliosaurus. Geologische und Palontologishe Abhandlungen, 11, 339–409.
  • LINGHAM-SOLIAR, T. 2004. Palaeopathology and injury in the extinct mosasaurs (Lepidosauromorpha, Squamata) and implications for modern reptiles. Lethaia, 37, 255–262.
  • MAISCH, M. 1998. Notes on the cranial osteology of Muraenosaurus SEELEY, 1874 (Sauropterygia, Jurassic), with special reference to the neurocranium and its implications for sauropterygian phylogeny. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Palontologie, Abhandlungen, 207, 207–253.
  • MASSARE, J. A. 1987. Tooth morphology and prey preference of Mesozoic marine reptiles. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 7, 121–137.
  • McKIBBIN, B. 1978. The biology of fracture healing in long bones. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 60B, 150–162.
  • MILLER, L. R. and GUTZKE, W. H. N. 1999. The role of the vomeronasal organ of crotalines (Reptilia: Serpentes: Viperidae) in predator detection. Animal Behaviour, 58, 53–57.
  • NOÈ, L. F. 2001. A taxonomic and functional study of the Callovian (Middle Jurassic) Pliosauroidea (Reptilia, Sauropterygia). Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Derby, Derby, volume 1, xix + 347 pp; volume 2, xix + 182 pp.
  • NOÈ, L. F., SMITH, D. T. J. and WALTON, D. I. 2004. A new species of Kimmeridgian pliosaur (Reptilia; Sauropterygia) and its bearing on the nomenclature of Liopleurodon macromerus. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, 115, 13–24.
  • O’KEEFE, F. R. 2001. A cladistic analysis and taxonomic revision of the Plesiosauria (Reptilia: Sauropterygia). Acta Zoologica Fennica, 213, 1–63.
  • O’KEEFE, F. R. 2002. The evolution of plesiosaur and pliosaur morphotypes in the Plesiosauria. Paleobiology, 28, 101–112.
  • O’KEEFE, F. R. 2004. Preliminary description and phylogenetic position of a new plesiosaur (Reptilia: Sauropterygia) from the Toarcian of Holzmaden, Germany. Journal of Paleontology, 78, 973–988.
  • O’KEEFE, F. R. and CARRANO, M. T. 2005. Correlated trends in the evolution of the plesiosaur locomotor system. Paleobiology, 31, 656–675.
  • OWEN, R. 1840. Report on British fossil reptiles. Report of the British Association of the Advancement of Science, 1839, 43–126.
  • OWEN, R. 1841. Odontography; a treatise on the comparative anatomy of the teeth; their physiological relations, mode of development, and microscopic structure, in the vertebrate animals. Part 2. Hippolyte Baillière, London, i–xl + 113–228 pp.
  • OWEN, R. 1842. Report on British fossil reptiles, part II. Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1841, 60–204.
  • OWEN, R. 1860. On the orders of fossil and recent Reptilia and their distribution in time. Report of the British Association of the Advancement of Science, 1859, 153–166.
  • PHILLIPS, J. 1871. Geology of Oxford and the valley of the Thames. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 523 pp.
  • RIEPPEL, O. 1995. The genus Placodus: systematics, morphology, paleogeography, and paleobiology. Fieldiana Geology (New Series), 31, 1–43.
  • RIEPPEL, O. 1998. Corosaurus alcovensis Case and the phylogenetic interrelationships of Triassic stem-group Sauropterygia. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 124, 1–41.
  • RIEPPEL, O. 2001. A new species of Nothosaurus (Reptilia: Sauropterygia) from the Upper Muschelkalk (Lower Ladinian) of southwestern Germany. Palaeontographica, Abteilung A, 263, 137–161.
  • RIEPPEL, O. and WILD, R. 1994. Nothosaurus edingerae Schultze, 1970: diagnosis of the species and comments on its stratigraphical occurrence. Stuttgarter Beitrge zur Naturkunde, Serie B (Geologie und Palontologie), 204, 1–13.
  • RIEPPEL, O. and WILD, R. 1996. A revision of the genus Nothosaurus (Reptilia: Sauropterygia) from the Germanic Triassic, with comments on the status of Conchiosaurus clavatus. Fieldiana Geology (New Series), 34, 1–82.
  • ROMER, A. S. 1956. Osteology of the reptiles. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 772 pp.
  • ROTHSCHILD, B. M. 2005. Osseotypes and spondyloarthropathy exposed. Current Rheumatology Reviews, 1, 57–63.
  • ROTHSCHILD, B. M. 2009. Scientifically rigorous reptile and amphibian osseous pathology: lessons for forensic herpetology from comparative and paleo-pathology. Applied Herpetology, 6, 47–79.
  • ROTHSCHILD, B. M. and MARTIN, L. D. 1993. Paleopathology: disease in the fossil record. CRC Press, London, 400 pp.
  • ROTHSCHILD, B. M. and TANKE, D. 1991. Paleopathology of vertebrates: insights to lifestyle and health in the geological record. Geoscience Canada, 19, 73–82.
  • ROTHSCHILD, B. M., HELBLING, M. and MILES, C. 2002. Spondyloarthropathy in the Jurassic. The Lancet, 360, 1454.
  • SASSOON, J., VAUGHAN, R., CARPENTER, S. and NOÈ, L. F. 2010. The second Westbury pliosaur: excavation, collection and preparation. Geological Curator, 3, 117–126.
  • SAUVAGE, M. H. E. 1873. Notes sur les reptiles fossiles. Bulletin de la Société Géologique de France, Série 3, 1, 365–380.
  • SEELEY, H. G. 1874. Note on some of the generic modifications of the plesiosaurian pectoral arch. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London, 30, 436–449.
  • SHANG, Q.-H. 2007. New information on the dentition and tooth replacement of Nothosaurus (Reptilia: Sauropterygia). Palaeoworld, 16, 254–263.
  • SMITH, A. S. and DYKE, G. J. 2008. The skull of a giant predatory pliosaur Rhomaleosaurus cramptoni: implications for plesiosaur phylogenetics. Naturwissenschaften, 95, 975–980.
  • STORRS, G. W. 1991. Anatomy and relationships of Corosaurus alcovensis (Diapsida: Sauropterygia) and the Triassic Alcova Limestone of Wyoming. Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, 44, 1–151.
  • STORRS, G. W. 1993. Function and phylogeny in sauropterygian (Diapsida) evolution. American Journal of Science, 293, 63–90.
  • STORRS, G. W. 1997. Morphological and taxonomic clarification of the genus Plesiosaurus. 145–190. In CALLOWAY, J. M. and NICHOLLS, E. L. (eds). Ancient Marine Reptiles. Academic Press, San Diego, 501 pp.
  • STORRS, G. W. 1999. An examination of Plesiosauria (Diapsida: Sauropterygia) from the Niobrara Chalk (Upper Cretaceous) of central North America. University of Kansas Palaeontological Contributions, 11, 1–15.
  • SUES, H.-D. 1987. Postcranial skeleton of Pistosaurus and interrelationships of the Sauropterygia (Diapsida). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 90, 109–131.
  • TARLO, L. B. 1959. Pliosaurus brachyspondylus (Owen) from the Kimmeridge Clay. Palaeontology, 1, 283–291.
  • TARLO, L. B. 1960. A review of Upper Jurassic pliosaurs. Bulletin of the British Museum of Natural History (Geology), 4, 147–189.
  • TAYLOR, M. A. 1987. How tetrapods feed in water: a functional analysis by paradigm. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 91, 171–195.
  • TAYLOR, M. A. 1992. Functional anatomy of the head of the large aquatic predator Rhomaleosaurus zetlandicus (Plesiosauria, Reptilia) from the Toarcian (Lower Jurassic) of Yorkshire, England. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, London, B, 335, 247–280.
  • TAYLOR, M. A. and CRUICKSHANK, A. R. I. 1993. Cranial anatomy and functional morphology of Pliosaurus brachyspondylus (Reptilia: Plesiosauria) from the Upper Jurassic of Westbury, Wiltshire. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, London, B, 341, 399–418.
  • TAYLOR, M. A., HILL, D. B. and CRUICKSHANK, A. R. I. 1995. The first Westbury pliosaur, Pliosaurus brachyspondylus, from the Kimmeridge Clay of Westbury, Wiltshire. Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, 88, 141–146.
  • VINCENT, P. 2010. A juvenile plesiosaur specimen from the Lower Jurassic of Holzmaden, Germany. Palaeontographica, Abteilung A, 291, 45–61.
  • WELLES, S. P. 1943. Elasmosaurid plesiosaurs with a description of new material from California and Colorado. Memoir of the University of California, Berkeley, 13, 125–215.
  • WHITE, T. E. 1940. Holotype of Plesiosaurus longirostris Blake and classification of the plesiosaurs. Journal of Paleontology, 14, 451–467.
  • WIFFEN, J., de BUFFRÉNIL, V., de RICQLÈS, A. and MAZIN, J.-M. 1995. Ontogenetic evolution of bone structure in late Cretaceous Plesiosauria from New Zealand. Geobios, 28, 625–640.
  • WILLISTON, S. W. 1907. The skull of Brachauchenius, with observations on the relationships of the plesiosaurs. Proceedings of the United States National Museum, 32, 477–489.
PalAss Go! URL: | Twitter: Share on Twitter | Facebook: Share on Facebook | Google+: Share on Google+