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Liopleurodon (/ˌlaɪoʊˈplʊərədɒn/; meaning 'smooth-sided teeth') is a genus of large, carnivorous marine reptile belonging to the Pliosauroidea, a clade of short-necked plesiosaurs. The two species of Liopleurodon lived during the Callovian stage of the Middle Jurassic Period (c. 160 to 155 mya). It was the apex predator of the Middle to Late Jurassic seas that covered Europe. The largest species, L. ferox, is estimated to have grown up to 6.4 metres (21 ft) in length.
The name "Liopleurodon" (meaning "smooth-sided tooth") derives from Ancient Greekwords: λεῖος leios, "smooth"; πλευρά pleurá, "side" or "rib"; and ὀδόν odṓn, "tooth".
- Discovery and species
The genus name Liopleurodon was coined by Henri Émile Sauvage in 1873 on the basis of very poor remains consisting of three 7 cm (2¾ inch) teeth. One tooth, found near Boulogvne-sur-Mer, France in layers dating from the Callovian, was named Liopleurodon ferox, another from Charly, France was named Liopleurodon grossouvrei, while a third discovered near Caen, France was originally described as Poikilopleuron bucklandi and ascribed by Sauvage to the species Liopleurodon bucklandi. Sauvage did not ascribe the genus to any particular group of reptiles in his descriptions.
Liopleurodon fossils have been found mainly in England and France. Fossil specimens that are contemporary (Callovian) with those from England and France referrable to Liopleurodon are known from Germany.
Currently, there are two recognized species within Liopleurodon. From the Callovian of England and France L. ferox is well known; while also from the Callovian of England is the rarer L. pachydeirus, described by Seeley (1869) as a species of Pliosaurus (1869).Only L. ferox is known from more or less complete skeletons. Liopleurodon grossouvrei, although synonymized with Pliosaurus andrewsi by most authors, may be a distinct genus in its own right given differences from P. andrewsi and Liopleurodon type species.