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A Pictorial Guide to Paleontology (in 5 volumes) - Prehistoric Aquatic Reptiles
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Price: US$ 56.00
A Pictorial Guide to Paleontology (in 5 volumes) - Prehistoric Aquatic Reptiles
ͼ: ʷǰˮж
Language:  Chinese and English bilingual
Author:  Yang Yang & Zhao Chuang
Pub. Date:  2014-01 Weight:  1.8 kg ISBN:  9787535778284
Format:  Soft Cover Pages:  304
Subject:  Paleontology > Vertebrate
Series:  A Pictorial Guide to Paleontology Size:  288 x 216 mm
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A Pictorial Guide to Paleontology - Prehistoric Aquatic Reptiles
Skeletal and reconstructions of more than 60 species mesozoic aquatic reptiles.

The prehistoric aquatic reptiles
1. What are the prehistoric aquatic reptiles?
The transition from the amphibians to reptiles is a revolutionary change in the evolutionary history of the vertebrates. Ever since the beginning of vertebrates, the reptiles are the first group of vertebrates that have truly freed themselves from an aquatic existence and hence tremendously expanded their living spaces.
The ver tebrates have undergone a long and complicated course of evolution, from the water to the land and then to the air. However, in this evolutionary process, some of the reptiles took a different trajectory. Having spent a long time on the land, they re-entered the water, instead of following their predecessors’ steps to tread the land.
This “reversed” course of evolution might be due more to the brutal “struggle for existence” on the land. Perhaps out of the fond “memories” of a less competitive aquatic environment, they returned to the water where food was more plentiful and living places more accommodating. We called them aquatic reptiles.
The aquatic reptiles appeared around the Permian, and Mesosaurus is a typical representative. A considerable number of them have even survived to this day. However, the majority of them lived during the Mesozoic Era, about 250 to 65 million years ago.
The aquatic reptiles described in this book are the ones that lived in the Mesozoic, and we call them the prehistoric aquatic reptiles.
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2. Classification of the prehistoric aquatic reptiles
The prehistoric aquatic reptiles contain diverse groups. The most important ones are as follows: the Ichthyosauria, the Mosasauridae, the Thalattosauria, the Placodontia, the Nothosauroidea, the Plesiosauria, the Protorosauria, the Crocodyliforms, and the Turtles etc.
This book deals with all of these groups.
3. Characteristics of the prehistoric aquatic reptiles
The reptiles that returned to the water must have first changed their anatomical structures along with the changes in the modes of reproduction and behavior. This was a difficult and long process, and they had no choice but strived to adapt to new environment.
The prehistoric aquatic reptiles all had a streamlined body, just like that of the dolphin, with their neck and body joined smoothly into a streamline, which helped reduce the resistance of the water while swimming.
As the buoyancy of the water eased their support of a heavy body, their sternum, ribs, and four limbs gradually became thinner. However, their spinal column became more robust, stronger, and more flexible, which helped them move more easily in the water.
After they returned to the water, their four limbs gradually became webbed ippers and their tail changed into a wide “fin”, which provides sufficient power for pushing themselves through the water.
With changes in the anatomical structures and the living environment came the great changes in their behavior, the most striking being the change in the mode of their reproduction. Many of them no longer laid eggs like other reptiles. Instead they developed ovoviviparity. As a result, they did not have to incubate their babies in the eggs but delivered their babies directly in the water.

4. History of the prehistoric aquatic reptile studies
Although the prehistoric aquatic reptiles are not as well-known as the dinosaurs, their discoveries and studies got started much earlier than those of the dinosaurs.
As early as in 1699, scholars reported the finding of some fragmentary ichthyosaur fossils in Wales, the Great Britain. In 1708, the fossil vertebrae of ichthyosaur were mentioned in two more papers, but these fossils were not yet scientifically recognized as ichthyosaurs. Instead, they were considered the “evil people” who died in the flood as recorded in the Bible. Then in 1780, a large mosasaur skull was discovered in Netherlands, in which large and sharp teeth were clearly observed. It was a rather historic moment in the history of paleontological discoveries, because people were frightened and thought the large skull belonged to the evil dragon killed by a warrior as is told in a legend.
In 1811, Mary Anning found a complete ichthyosaur fossil near her hometown of Lyme Regis in southern England, which brought to light this huge and bizarre animal that had lived in the prehistoric time.
This was how the prehistoric aquatic reptiles were brought to people’s attention. Soon afterwards, many more fossils of the Ichthyosauria and Plesiosauria were discovered, when the word “dinosaur” had not even been coined yet. The word “dinosaur” was proposed by Sir Richard Owen in 1842.
Early studies of the prehistoric aquatic reptiles were done mainly in Europe and the United States, and they did not get started in China until 1942, when renowned Chinese pale 






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