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9 Extinct Exotic Sea Creatures


8
Tanystropheus
The Tanystropheus had a 20-foot neck, which allowed it to pluck fish out the water without getting wet. De Agostini Picture Library/De Agostini/Getty Images
The Tanystropheus had a 20-foot neck, which allowed it to pluck fish out the water without getting wet. De Agostini Picture Library/De Agostini/Getty Images

From what paleontologists can decipher of this reptile's remains, the Tanystropheus appears to have been a prehistoric reptile version of a giraffe with shorter legs, a long neck that juts out rather than up and a massive tail. The largest of these animals stretched up to 20 feet (6 meters) long, with the Tanystropheus' 12-vertebrae neck comprising more than half of that [sources: University of California Museum of Paleontology, Prehistoric Wildlife].

That made this shorefaring specimen a natural fisher, able to pluck a variety of seafood fresh out of the water without even getting his collar wet. Adding to this theory of the Tanystropheus feeding habits are fossils indicating that the creature's front legs were shorter than the back pair. That suggests that the Tanystropheus did his hunting from dry land, pitching his neck in the water at chow time. Just how much time the animal spent on terra firma as opposed to in the waters off Europe, the Middle East and China remains a subject of debate. It's disputed whether the Tanystropheus' feet were actually were made for swimming and how much it was able to move that long neck with such a relatively small body [source: Prehistoric Wildlife].


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