Elasmosauras illustration by Edward Cope, from "The Fossil Reptiles of New Jersey," The American Naturalist, 1870.
flipFlip to Drawing of Elasmosaurus platyurus Cope, by Dr. Adam Stuart Smith.
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Credit: Illustration from Cope, E. D., 1870. The fossil reptiles of New Jersey. The American Naturalist, 3:84-91. Plate 2.

In the 1800s, paleontology was an inexact and contentious science. When Edward Drinker Cope first reconstructed a new plesiosaur named Elasmosauras, seen in the foreground of this illustration, he put the head on the end of the short tail of its skeleton rather than on the end of its long neck. Standing in a kangaroo-like stance is Cope's first dinosaur discovery, Laelaps. The dinosaur did not support itself on its tail, but Cope's reconstruction of the skeleton was pretty accurate.

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