Cover image for Sea dragons : predators of the prehistoric oceans
Sea dragons : predators of the prehistoric oceans
Ellis, Richard, 1938-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Lawrence, Kan. : University Press of Kansas, [2003]

Physical Description:
xii, 313 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Isn't that the Loch Ness monster? -- The marine reptiles -- The ichthyosaurs -- The plesiosaurs -- The pliosaurs -- The mosasaurs -- The "reason" for extinction.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
QE861 .E45 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In the days when dinosaurs dominated the earth, their marine counterparts - every bit as big and ferocious - reigned supreme in prehistoric seas. In this book, Richard Ellis takes us back to the Mesozoic era to resurrect the fascinating lives of these giant seagoing reptiles. fierce predators, speculates on their habits, and tells how they eventually became extinct - or did they? He traces the 200-million-year history of the great ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs and mosasaurs who swam the ancient oceans - and who may, according to some, still frequent the likes of Loch Ness. animal that looked like a crocodile crossed with a shark the size of a small yacht. With its impossibly long neck, Plesiosaurus conybeari has been compared to a giant snake threaded through the body of a turtle. At a length of nearly 60 feet, Mosasaurus hoffmanni boasted powerful jaws that could crunch up even the hardest-shelled giant sea turtle. And Kronosaurus queenslandicus, perhaps the most formidable of the lot, had a skull nine feet long - more than twice that of Tyrannosaurus rex - with teeth to match. reconstruct their lives and habitats. Their fossils have been found all over the world - in Europe, Australia, Japan and even Kansas - in lands that once lay on the floors of Jurassic and Triassic seas. Along the way, the book also provides intriguing insights into and entertaining tales about the work, discoveries and competing theories that compose the world of vertebrate paleontology. The text is also accompanied by Ellis' own illustrations of how these creatures probably appeared and, through these likenesses, we are invited to speculate on their locomotion, their predatory habits and their lifestyles.

Author Notes

Richard Ellis is one of America's most celebrated marine artists & writers. The author of ten books, including "The Search for the Giant Squid" & "Men & Whales". Ellis makes his home in New York City.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs and mosasaurs, oh, my! The prehistoric oceans and shallow seas that covered most of present-day North America and Europe were rife with such now-extinct monsters. They evolved from land reptiles that returned to the water, but they didn't all coexist: the ichthyosaurs, looking a lot like dolphins and most docile of the group, first appeared about 250 million years ago, followed by the plesiosaurs, which looked like swimming velociraptors; pliosaurs, first cousins to the plesiosaurs and able to take on a shark bigger than a great white; and finally the mosasaurs, almost 60 feet in length. Pliosaurs and mosasaurs went extinct at the same time as the last terrestrial dinosaurs, 65 million years ago. Acclaimed illustrator and author Ellis (The Empty Ocean) conducts an exhaustive and generously illustrated survey of what paleontologists know about these monsters of the deep. Many species are known only from a partial skeleton or two, so many questions remain, such as, how did they propel themselves though the water (some scientists guess that plesiosaurs propelled themselves like penguins or dolphins) and what does the gravel found near some fossils mean (perhaps the sea dragons used it for ballast, like modern-day crocodiles, or perhaps they used it in gizzard-like structures, like the chicken). One of the biggest unanswered questions about dinosaurs is what their skin looked like, but Ellis applies his imagination and extensive knowledge of maritime animals skillfully in the grayscale drawings that bring these creatures back to life. Casual dinosaur fans may find the dense detail tough going, but die-hard Jurassic buffs will want this for their collections. (Oct. 7) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

When dinosaurs walked the earth, giant sea reptiles ruled the ancient seas. Noted marine sciences author and artist Ellis (The Empty Ocean) examines the natural history of these extinct creatures, specifically ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, pliosaurs, and mosasaurs. He ably presents the changes in interpretation of fragmentary paleontologic data to identify and understand how the animals moved and fed, and his intricate line drawings help readers visualize what the animals might have looked like. Unfortunately, Ellis heavily ladens his text with quotations from the scientific literature, requiring him to explain these excerpts to lay readers. (His Aquagenesis did a better job explaining evolution and extinction issues.) Christopher McGowan's Dinosaurs, Spitfires and Sea Dragons is more readable but overlaps only in its treatment of the ichthyosaurs. Still, this is a very interesting and a thorough review of the subject, with frequent footnotes and an extensive bibliography. Recommended for larger public and academic libraries. (Index not seen.)-Jean E. Crampon, Science & Engineering Lib., Univ. of Southern California, Los Angeles (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Ellis, a noted artist and author of books on extant marine animals, has now produced an informative book on Mesozoic reptiles and those who study them. Two previous books on ancient marine reptiles--Water Reptiles of the Past and Present, by Samuel Willison (1914), and Ancient Marine Reptiles, ed. by Callaway and Nicholls (CH, Oct'97)--were written for specialists. Ellis's book has eight narrative units. The acknowledgments provide background on the author and his sources. The introduction has comments on the Loch Ness Monster and information on paleontologists, fossils, and the times and conditions of the Mesozoic. "The Marine Reptiles" unit covers reptile origins, historical information, and descriptions of reptilian groups including large marine forms. Next come four units that introduce ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, pliosaurs, and mosasaurs, and those who researched them. The final unit offers evidence relating to extinction of the giant marine reptiles. An extensive list of references completes the book. Narrative sections are illustrated with the author's monochrome drawings. Though technical names are used throughout, the author clarifies them, and discussions are easy to comprehend. Readers will gain valuable insights into this field of study; this work will appeal not only to biologists and paleontologists, but to anyone interested in giant reptiles. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels. E. D. Keiser University of Mississippi