Temporal Range: Middle Triassic (235-225 Mya)
Length: 2 metres
– Discovery: Askeptosaurus is the type specimen of the askeptosaurid group, one of the two sub-families of thalattosaurs. The first remains were discovered in 1925 by Hungarian paleontologist Franz Nopcsa von Felső-Szilvás. Since then, a handful of fossils have been recovered in Europe, specifically from Switzerland and Italy. Until 2000, Askeptosaurus was the only animal classed within the askeptosaurid group but it has since been joined by three other species.
– Description: Askeptosaurus was an extremely slender creature that likely swam similarly to a modern-day eel. Its tail was very lengthy and accounted for around half of the animals total length of 2 metres. All the vertebrae were of a fairly similar height, meaning that Askeptosaurus had a very linear, streamlined, spinal column. The limbs of Askeptosaurus were fairly short but its feet were webbed, which would have helped the animal steer itself whilst underwater. It is believed that Askeptosaurus would have held a predominantly aquatic lifestyle whilst coming ashore to rest.
It is likely that Askeptosaurus would have hunted in deep water. It had large eyes that were suited to conditions of low light and, like ichthyosaurs, they had protective bony rings around the eye sockets that would have prevented them from collapsing under the high water pressure of great depths. The skull of Askeptosaurus was very narrow but it had a toothy, elongated jaw that would have been utilised to snatch up fish.
(Restoration Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Askeptosaurus#/media/File:Askeptosaurus_BW.jpg)
(Skeletal Source: http://www.reptileevolution.com/askeptosaurus.htm)