Fun Platecarpus Facts For Kids

Ritika Katariya
Oct 20, 2022 By Ritika Katariya
Originally Published on Oct 12, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Discover surprising aquatic dinosaur Platecarpus facts.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.2 Min

The Platecarpus is an interesting creature in the history of the ancient world. Surprisingly, dinosaurs of all sorts used to exist in the world before us.

When you hear the word 'dinosaur' a huge reptile thumping on the ground is probably what you imagine.

But did you know, dinosaurs could not only walk or run but fly and swim as well!

Here, we have the Platecarpus that could swim and lived underwater! The Platecarpus is an aquatic reptile that swam in the oceans.

Upon the discovery of its first fossil by Professor B. F. Mudge, Dale Russell determined the remains to be too scattered to be placed within any genus, and called the specimen to be of 'uncertain taxonomic position'. Later, Prof. Edward Drinker Cope classified the reptile under a different genus called 'Clidastes planiformes'.

After much research, finally, the specimen was later given the status of a genus 'Platecarpus' in the year 1898 with a description and evidence as a medium-sized mosasaur by Russell.

While mosasaurs were most abundant in North America, the possibility of specimens being spotted across Belgium and Africa has also been expressed.

Through the research, the genus Platecarpus was discovered to have two taxons (Konishi and Caldwell) namely 'P ictericus' (Platecarpus ictericus) of the Late Cretaceous Niobrara Formation of Wallace County, Kansas and 'P. tympaniticus' (Platecarpus tympaniticus) is regarded as the most common genus of mosasaur in the Western Interior Sea, Kansas.

The latter was the most numerously collected mosasaur taxa in North America. The most unique and interesting feature of this species was the preservation of its fossil that contains skin impressions due to the presence of of soft tissues, certain pigments around the nostrils, bronchial tubes, and an exceptional tail fluke.

The preservation of the Platecarpus is thus regarded as totally groundbreaking.

Out of these, The skin impressions of the specimen are considered to be Apart from these amazingly uncommon attributes, the Platecarpus lungs were bifurcated into two halves and both the lungs were known to be functional.

A detailed analysis of the animal from the Upper Cretaceous by Konishi and Caldwell reveals the presence of a streamlined body which plants the seed of evolution of streamlined body in modern-day fishes. A deep red spot in one of the vertebrae was also found and interpreted as evidence of the presence of hemoglobin.

If you enjoyed this article, learn more about other dinosaur species with these Puertasaurus and Incisivosaurus facts.

Platecarpus Interesting Facts

Was the Platecarpus a dinosaur?

The Platecarpus was an aquatic lizard belonging to the family of mosasaurs,  a group of extinct, large marine reptiles from the Late Cretaceous.

How do you pronounce 'Platecarpus'?

Platecarpus is pronounced as 'Plat-ay-car-pus.'

What type of prehistoric reptile was a Platecarpus?

According to the fossils found in Belgium and Africa, the description of the creature was given as Mosasauridae of Squamata order. On a general level, they are more similar to lizards while the genus was labeled as Platecarpus.

In which geological period did the Platecarpus live?

Evidence suggests that the marine lizard belonged to the middle Santonian to early Campanian, of the Late Cretaceous period with many other dinosaurs and mosasaurs. living around 84–81 million years ago.

When did the Platecarpus become extinct?

The Platecarpus became extinct around 80 million years ago.

Where did a Platecarpus live?

The Platecarpus was a dinosaur of the western world. Its fossils were first found in the sea beds of North America which were precisely located in the Western Interior Sea during the deposition of the Smoky Hill Chalk in Kansas.

Other locations in North America included the western central Cretaceous region of Alabama. However, the Platecarpus has been found across Europe and Africa as well.

What was a Platecarpus' habitat?

According to the collected fossils, this mosasaur inhabited the Western Interior Sea near the Smoky Hill Chalk in Kansas, which bore a combination of temperate and continental climate.

Who did a Platecarpus live with?

As the fossil remains were found near the ocean beds and it's clear that these creatures inhabited the water, it is possible that they lived alongside a vibrant variety of animals including prey like squids and turtles and predators like plesiosaurs.

How long did a Platecarpus live?

The lifespan of this marine lizard is unknown.

How did they reproduce?

You might not be too surprised to know that, unlike whales, these huge marine animals reproduced by laying eggs because they were reptiles, but their reproductive habits resembled many other marine animals of the modern-day, like seals and turtles. Although they spent their time in the waters, amazingly enough, the birth of the babies took place on the shore!

There's significant evidence as well, that shows how the Platecarpus swam up to freshwaters to reproduce.

Platecarpus Fun Facts

What did a Platecarpus look like?

The bone fragments of the Platecarpus given by Russell in the Peabody Museum of\u00a0Natural History.

The Platecarpus color was believed to be gray with a medium-sized, streamlined body that would have resembled a Barracuda. It also had stripes along the length of its body, with flat wrist-like flippers on the upper and lower ends.

What's considered the most unique about the Platecarpus is the size and structure of its skull.

While the short skull of Platecarpus tympaniticus is a unique feature among all the mosasaurs, the Platecarpus teeth and jaws were yet again different. It had a lesser number of teeth than other members of its species.

How many bones did a Platecarpus have?

Averaging from all the fossil specimens studied, including the one found in Kansas and the one stored in the American Museum of natural sciences, Platecarpus skull bone including the snout was a solid single bone piece that was well preserved.

Its backbone was made up of a curved vertebra with around 23 dorsal, 70 caudal, and 47 tail vertebrae that had grooves on it.

Apart from this, other bones like hind paddles, pelvic girdles, phalange, ribs, and seven cervical vertebrae.

How did they communicate?

This mosasaur was known to have certain muscular structures, that pointed out the presence of a structure that many assumed was that of an eardrum! Since the Platecarpus had eardrums, it's not too bad to assume that they had a good perception of sound. Thus it's possible that they communicated by creating and sensing sounds.

How big was a Platecarpus?

The length of the Platecarpus was 24 ft (7.3 m) while the length of a much bigger aquatic reptile, the Mosasaurus was around 32.8-59.1 ft (10-18 m). Thus the Platecarpus was around twice as small as the Mosasaurus.

How fast could a Platecarpus move?

The Platecarpus, being an aquatic reptile, swam to move around. However, significantly disproportionate fins could not support swift swimming through the water. Hence it was a slow swimmer.

How much did a Platecarpus weigh?

The genus Platecarpus was a moderately bulky marine reptile with a weight of around 2000 lb (907.2 kg) while the Mosasaurus, a much larger genus, weighed around 30,864 lb (14000 kg).

What were the male and female names of the species?

The male and female mosasaurs were known by the common name 'Platecarpus.'

What would you call a baby Platecarpus?

The baby of Platecarpus was simply called a baby or juvenile Platecarpus.

What did they eat?

The marine lizard's diet included smaller creatures in the ocean. It was very selective when it came to choosing the diet.

Its diet consisted of slow-moving animals like ammonites, squids, and turtles but they would also tackle larger and swifter prey, such as sharks and Plesiosaurs when there was a need for defense. Although not fast swimmers, these mosasaurs had something to their advantage. It was the cover and camouflage from their prey behind the rocks and corals.

How aggressive were they?

These mosasaurs were pretty aggressive when it came to both being preyed or being predated upon.

Did you know...

Platecarpus tympaniticus shorter snout than the average mosasaurs.

Platecarpus coryphaeus was first defined by Edward Cope.

Squamata mosasauridae is a newly discovered species of Platecarpus from Morocco.

Russell placed P. tympaniticus in the 'lower' and P. ictericus in the 'upper' group during the taxonomical description in 1967.

The Platecarpus ictericus is preserved in the American Museum of Natural History. 

The taxon from the Lower Demopolis Formation in Alabama has a lower number of teeth in its jaws.

What does the name 'Platecarpus' mean?

The mosasaur was one of the earliest discovered species of aquatic dinosaurs, they still retained flap-like arms. They were half flappers-half arms which made their 'fins' look really thin. Plate-carpus is a Latin word where 'plate' means flat and 'carpus' means wrist, together forming the word Platecarpus or 'flat-wrist.'

Where did the Platecarpus swim?

The Platecarpus was a shallow swimmer. It swam in the oceans of North America, Europe, and Africa thus capturing almost all the prime locations of ancient marine habitats across history.

These oceans were places where the temperatures switched from moderate to extreme. Considering the foundational location of the mosasaur along with the given climatic description of the oceans, it is almost certain that the creature was housed by the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly prehistoric animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other creatures from our Metriorhynchus interesting facts, or Gargoyleosaurus facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Platecarpus coloring pages.

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Written by Ritika Katariya

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English

Ritika Katariya picture

Ritika KatariyaBachelor of Arts specializing in English

A dedicated content writer and language enthusiast, Ritika holds a Bachelor's degree in English Language and Literature from Fergusson College. With a keen interest in linguistics and literary adaptations, she has conducted extensive research in these domains. Beyond her academic pursuits, Ritika actively volunteers at her university, providing academic and on-campus assistance to fellow students.

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