Scientists Solve a 120-Year-Old Mystery: How Did the Monstrous Plesiosaurs Swim? - SciTechDaily

Scientists Solve a 120-Year-Old Mystery: How Did the Monstrous Plesiosaurs Swim? - SciTechDaily

Scientists Solve a 120-Year-Old Mystery: How Did the Monstrous Plesiosaurs Swim? - SciTechDaily
Aug 04, 2022 1 min, 29 secs

Plesiosaurs, who lived around 210 million years ago, adapted to living underwater in an unusual way: their front and hind legs evolved to become four uniform, wing-like flippers over time.

To reconstruct the muscles, Anna Krahl (front) and Ulrich Witzel used a model made from bone replicas and material from the hardware store.

Never again, however, did the hind legs evolve into an almost identical-looking airfoil-like wing,” explains Anna Krahl, whose doctoral thesis was supervised by Professor P.

She examined the bones of the shoulder and pelvic girdle, the front and hind flippers, and the shoulder joint surfaces of the plesiosaur Cryptoclidus eurymerus from the Middle Jurassic period (about 160 million years ago) on a complete skeleton displayed in the Goldfuß Museum of the University of Bonn.

“This could work by means of twisting the flippers around their long axis,” says Anna Krahl.

A reconstruction of the muscles of the fore- and hind flippers for Cryptoclidus using reptiles alive today showed that plesiosaurs could actively enable such flipper twisting.

All the muscles and their angles of attachment on the humerus and femur were virtually reproduced in an FE computer program that can simulate physiological functional loads, for example on construction components but also on prostheses.

“The FE analyses showed that the humerus and femur in the flippers are functionally loaded mainly by compression and to a much lesser extent by tensile stress,” Anna Krahl explains.

“This means that the plesiosaur built its bones by using as little material as necessary.” This natural state can only be maintained if the muscles that twist the flippers and the muscles that wrap around the bone are included.

“We can therefore indirectly prove that plesiosaurs twisted their flippers in order to swim efficiently,” Anna Krahl sums up.

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