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Plesiosaurus dolichodeirus, found 1823

Plesiosaur dolich 
Plesiosaurus dolichodeirus found by Mary Anning.  From: W D Conybeare, "On the Discovery of an almost perfect Skeleton of the Plesiosaurus", Transactions of the Geological Society of London S2-1 (1824). GSL Library collections. The specimen was purchased from the estate of the Duke of Buckingham in 1848 and can now be seen at the NHM.

This image shows the first articulated plesiosaur which was found by Mary Anning on 10 December 1823.  Named Plesiosaurus dolichodeirus, it was purchased by the Duke of Buckingham for 150 guineas and quickly transported to the Geological Society for its meeting of 20 February 1824.  Unfortunately at that time the Society’s meeting room was on the first floor of a narrow residential building in Bedford Street near Covent Garden.  Despite Conybeare and two workmen spending a day attempting to manoeuvre the three metre by two metre wide specimen, they could not get up the stairs.  Instead a rather less dignified display had to be given in the hallway. 

Conybeare felt vindicated, as he had feared that people might think he was making the animal up. 

W D Conybeare

“[I]n the minds of many persons interested in such researches, much hesitation should be felt in admitting the conclusions of an observer who was avowedly inexperienced in comparative anatomy ; and there might have then appeared reasonable ground for the suspicion that, like the painter in Horace, I had been led to constitute a fictitious animal from the juxtaposition of incongruous members, referable in truth to different species. But the magnificent specimen recently discovered at Lyme has confirmed the justice of my former conclusions in every essential point connected with the organization of the skeleton.”  From W D Conybeare, 'On the Discovery of an almost perfect Skeleton of the Plesiosaurus', Transactions of the Geological Society of London, S2-1 (1824). 

Plesiosaur reconstruction
Conybeare's full skeletal reconstruction of the plesiosaur found by Mary Anning, from W D Conybeare, "On the Discovery of an almost perfect Skeleton of the Plesiosaurus", Transactions of the Geological Society of London S2-1 (1824). GSL Library collections.

The most influential scientist of his day, the French naturalist Georges Cuvier (1769-1832, Honorary Membership no.366) still thought that the plesiosaur was a fraud.  But after being convinced otherwise by Conybeare and William Buckland that it was genuine, he sent his emissary the geologist Louis Constant Prevost (1787-1856) to Britain to acquire an example of one along with other specimens for the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris.  In June 1824, Prevost visited Lyme Regis and purchased what was the second (partially) complete plesiosaur discovered.  It had actually been found by another fossil collector but being an astute businesswoman Anning had bought it from him for £3, then sold it onto Prevost for £10.

The plesiosaur purchased from Mary Anning by Constant Prevost in 1825 for £10.  The insert showing the head and neck are taken from the  plesiosaur bought by the Duke of Buckingham.  From G Cuvier, 'Discours sur les révolutions de la surface du globe, et sur les changemens qu'elles ont produits dans le règne animal' (1826). GSL Library collections.
Cuvier's plesiosaur

Plesiosaurs, like ichthyosaurs, were marine reptiles.  They first appeared in the Triassic Period (c.210 million years ago).  Plesiosaurs were victims of the Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction (c.65.5 million years ago) which also wiped out the dinosaurs. 

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The plesiosaur purchased from Mary Anning by Constant Prevost in 1825 for £10.  The insert showing the head and neck are taken from the Duke of Buckingham’s Plesiosaur.  From G Cuvier, 'Discours sur les révolutions de la surface du globe, et sur les changemens qu'elles ont produits dans le règne animal' (1826). Source: GSL Library collections.
The plesiosaur purchased from Mary Anning by Constant Prevost in 1825 for £10.  The insert showing the head and neck are taken from the Duke of Buckingham’s Plesiosaur.  From G Cuvier, 'Discours sur les révolutions de la surface du globe, et sur les changemens qu'elles ont produits dans le règne animal' (1826). Source: GSL Library collections.