Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Superclass Tetrapoda
Class Reptilia
Subclass Diapsida
Order Protorosauria
Family Tanystropheidae
Genus Tanystropheus
1st Species Tanystropheus conspicuus
2nd Species Tanystropheus longobardicus
3rd Species Tanystropheus meridensis
4th Species Tanystropheus hydroides
Other attributes
Time Range 245-228 mya
Location Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Israel, China
Name Meaning Long vertebra
Physical Dimensions 5.3 meters long for T.hydroides
Weight 80 kilograms
Dietary Classification Carnivore

Tanystropheus is a tanystropheid protorosaurian reptile from the Middle-Late Triassic of Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Israel, and China. It was named in 1852 by Christian Erich Hermann von Meyer. It was a unique protorosaur, as it had the longest neck length of any organism in the animal kingdom.


Tanystropheus was a reptile with a slender body, short legs, a long tail, and a small head with a mouth filled with sharp, interlocking teeth. Perhaps the most defining trait of this reptile was its absurdly long neck, which accounted for about 50% of its body length. Its body would have been covered in scaly skin.


Tanystropheus was a carnivore, preying on fish and cephalopods. Its sharp teeth were used to get a hold of slippery fish, and its long neck would have helped it reach deep down into the water to catch passing prey.


Tanystropheus was once thought to be an entirely aquatic reptile, leading a lifestyle similar to that of most plesiosaurs; this was presumed due to the notion that its neck would have made it too front-heavy to effectively walk on land. However, recent studies have shown that even though the neck was long, it only accounted for 20% of its body mass; as well as this, its legs were poorly equipped for living in the water. However, its teeth were very similar to that of many fish-eating reptiles; as a result, we can infer that it hunted very similarly to a heron, stalking prey that got too close to the shore before snatching them with its jaws and gobbling them up. As well as this, it would have stayed near tidal pools, constantly checking for new populations of prey before hunting.

In popular cultureEdit

Tanystropheus was featured in the 1st episode of the 2003 documentary Chased by Sea Monsters, where it is depicted as a fully aquatic reptile. As well as this, it is depicted as shedding its tail in order to escape predators such as Cymbospondylus; again, this is wishful thinking, as protorosaurs were outside of the phylogenetic bracket for tail-shedding (it was restricted to lizards).

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