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Live plesiosaurs: weighing the evidence

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Author Topic: Live plesiosaurs: weighing the evidence  (Read 3410 times)
In the Mouth of Madness
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« on: October 15, 2011, 04:08:11 pm »

Basking Sharks

The basking shark, Cetorhinus maximus is only second in size to the whale shark. Individuals have been known to reach up to more than 13.7 meters (45 feet) long.23

The gill arches are very large, extending around the neck and almost meeting at the throat. The fifth pair of gill arches is just in front of the pectoral fins (Figure 2b). Basking sharks sometimes swim on the surface of the water with mouth wide open, filtering out plankton, or more often just sun themselves on the surface with the dorsal fins towering out of the water. They are also known to congregate in loose schools and to swim one behind the other, which could give the appearance of a ‘sea serpent.’

When the shark decays, the tissue around the gills breaks apart, so the gills and the lower jaw fall off. This leaves the spinal column and the cranium to resemble a long neck and a small head (Figure 2c). As the bottom of the tail fin has no spinal column, it also decays leaving the appearance of a long tail. Finally the skin sloughs away and the muscles fray out resulting in what resembles a hairy mane. Carcasses have a distinctive plesiosaur appearance, and have been termed ‘pseudoplesiosaurs.’24 The pair of claspers (copulatory appendages) of male sharks may give the appearance of an extra pair of limbs, like that reported for the ‘Stronsay beast’ find. However, when further decayed, they partly merge with the closely associated pelvic fins, making the fins appear larger (see Figure 2c).
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