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Massospondylus is a genus of prosauropod dinosaur from the early Jurassic Period, ca. 200–183 million years ago. It was described by Sir Richard Owen in 1854 from remains found in South Africa, and is thus one of the first dinosaurs to have been named. Fossils have since been found in other parts of South Africa, as well as Lesotho and Zimbabwe. Further material from the United States Kayenta Formation, India, and Argentina has been assigned to this genus, but may not belong to Massospondylus. The type, and only universally recognized species, is M. carinatus, although six other species have been named during the past 150 years. Prosauropod systematics have undergone numerous revisions during the last several years, and many scientists disagree where exactly Massospondylus lies on the dinosaur evolutionary tree. Although Massospondylus was long depicted as quadrupedal, a 2007 study found it to be bipedal. It was probably a plant eater (herbivore), although it is speculated that the prosauropods may have been omnivorous. This animal, 4–6 meters (13–20 ft) long, had a long neck and tail, with a small head and slender body. (Read more...)

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Paul Sereno2

Paul Sereno is an American paleontologist who is the discoverer of several new dinosaur species on several continents. He has conducted excavations at sites as varied as Inner Mongolia, Argentina, Morocco and Niger. He is a professor at the University of Chicago and a National Geographic "explorer-in-residence." Sereno's most widely publicized discovery is that of a nearly complete specimen of Sarcosuchus imperator (popularly known as SuperCroc) at Gadoufaoua in the Tenere desert of Niger. Other major discoveries include Eoraptor - the oldest known dinosaur fossil, Jobaria, the first good skull of Carcharodontosaurus iguidensis, Afrovenator, Suchomimus and the African pterosaur. (Read more...)

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"Why are the bones of great fishes, and oysters and corals and various other shells and sea-snails, found on the high tops of mountains that border the sea, in the same way in which they are found in the depths of the sea?"
—Leonardo da Vinci

'Physical Geography', in The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, trans. E. MacCurdy (1938), Vol. 1, 361.

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Ichthyosaur vertebrae from the Sundance Formation (Jurassic) of southern Wyoming.

Ichthyosaurs were giant marine reptiles that resembled fish and dolphins. Ichthyosaurs thrived during much of the Mesozoic era; based on fossil evidence, they first appeared approximately 245 million years ago (mya) and disappeared about 90 million years ago, about 25 million years before the dinosaurs became extinct. During the Middle Triassic Period, ichthyosaurs evolved from as-yet unidentified land reptiles that moved back into the water, in a development parallel to that of modern-day dolphins and whales. Ichthyosaurs were particularly abundant in the Jurassic Period, until they were replaced as the top aquatic predators by plesiosaurs in the Cretaceous Period. Ichthyosaurs averaged two to four meters in length (although a few were smaller, and some species grew much larger), with a porpoise-like head and a long, toothed snout. Ichthyosaur fossils have been found on every continent except Africa and Antarctica (other researchers reported finding possible ichthyosaur teeth in Antarctica, but they weren't enough to convince most paleontologists). They belong to the order known as Ichthyosauria or Ichthyopterygia ('fish flippers' - a designation introduced by Sir Richard Owen in 1840, although the term is now used more for the parent clade of the Ichthyosauria).

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