Kaiwhekea

Name: Kaiwhekea ‭(‬Squid eater‭)‬.
Phonetic: Kie-whek-e-ah.
Named By: Arthur Cruickshank and Ewan Fordyce‭ ‬-‭ ‬2002.
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Reptilia,‭ ‬Sauropterygia,‭ ‬Plesiosaura,‭ ‬Plesiosauroidea,‭ ‬Cryptoclidia,‭ ‬Leptocleidia,‭ ‬Leptocleididae.
Species: K.‭ ‬katiki‭ (‬type‭)‬.
Diet: Squid,‭ ‬possibly fish.
Size: Between‭ ‬6.5‭ ‬and‭ ‬7‭ ‬meters long.
Known locations: New Zealand,‭ ‬South Island‭ ‬-‭ ‬Katiki Formation.
Time period: Maastrichtian of the Cretaceous.
Fossil representation: Almost complete individual.

       Cryptoclidid plesiosaurs‭ (‬those typified by Cryptoclidus‭) ‬seem to have become very rare towards the end of the Cretaceous with Kaiwhekea being one of the few known members of this family present this late in the Mesozoic.‭ ‬Like with so many of the late surviving plesiosaurs,‭ ‬Kaiwhekea seems to have survived this long by becoming more specialised in its feeding.‭ ‬This is revealed by the shape of the teeth which are very small when compared to other plesiosaurs,‭ ‬as well as being very numerous,‭ ‬an adaptation that is thought to have helped Kaiwhekea catch small fast moving prey like squid,‭ ‬hence the meaning of its name,‭ ‘‬squid eater‭’‬.
       In the past Kaiwhekea was thought to be similar to Aristonectes,‭ ‬a filter feeding plesiosaur known from deposits in South America and Antarctica.‭ ‬Since‭ ‬2010‭ ‬however,‭ ‬Kaiwhekea has been treated as a member of the Leptocleididae.‭ ‬Other plesiosaurs from the late Cretaceous of New Zealand are the elasmosaurids Mauisaurus and Tuarangisaurus.‭ ‬Predators of Kaiwhekea were probably late Cretaceous mosasaurs such as Taniwhasaurus,‭ ‬although large sharks like Cretoxyrhina may have also posed a threat.

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