Luskhan

Name: Luskhan ‭(‬water spirit chief‭)‬.
Phonetic: Lus-karn.
Named By: V.‭ ‬Fischer,‭ ‬R.‭ ‬B.‭ ‬J.‭ ‬Benson,‭ ‬N.‭ ‬G.‭ ‬Zverkov,‭ ‬L.‭ ‬C.‭ ‬Soul,‭ ‬M.‭ ‬S.‭ ‬Arkhangelsky,‭ ‬O. Lambert,‭ ‬I.‭ ‬M.‭ ‬Stenshin,‭ ‬G.‭ ‬N.‭ ‬Uspensky‭ & ‬P.‭ ‬S.‭ ‬Druckenmiller‭ ‬-‭ ‬2017.
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Reptilia,‭ ‬Sauropterygia,‭ ‬Plesiosauria,‭ ‬Pliosauridae,‭ ‬Brachaucheninae.
Species: L.‭ ‬itilensis‭ (‬type‭)‬.
Diet: Piscivore.
Size: Estimated about‭ ‬6.5‭ ‬meters long.
Known locations: Russia.
Time period: Hauterivian‭ ‬of the Cretaceous.
Fossil representation: Almost complete individual.




       The Luskhan holotype was discovered on the banks of the Volga River in the Ulyanovsk region of Russia.‭ ‬This was a largely well preserved individual that led to an easy identification of Luskhan being a‭ ‬brachauchenine pliosaur that lived during the Early Cretaceous.‭ ‬What is different about Luskhan however is that this pliosaur seems to‭ ‬have had a completely different prey specialisation.
       At the time of the Luskhan description other known brachaucenine pliosaurs were apex predators,‭ ‬capable of easily taking down larger prey animals,‭ ‬perhaps even other marine reptiles.‭ ‬Luskhan however lacks the large teeth of its relatives,‭ ‬and instead the teeth of Luskhan while very numerous,‭ ‬are also very small.‭ ‬Instead it is far more likely that Luskhan was a predator of smaller animals such as fish and perhaps cephalopods such as squid.‭
       Because of the form of the body and perceived prey specialisation,‭ ‬Luskhan was actually developed a similar lifestyle to the polycotylid plesiosaurs.‭ ‬These plesiosaurs developed shorter necks and longer jaws than other plesiosaurs,‭ ‬to the point that they actually began to resemble small pliosaurs.‭ ‬The discovery of Luskhan now shows that some pliosaur genera were also moving this way too,‭ ‬on a‭ ‬differing evolutionary line and many millions of years separately to the polycotylid plesiosaurs.

Further reading
-‭ ‬Plasticity and convergence in the evolution of short-necked plesiosaurs.‭ ‬-‭ ‬Current Biology‭ ‬27:1-10.‭ ‬-‭ ‬V.‭ ‬Fischer,‭ ‬R.‭ ‬B.‭ ‬J.‭ ‬Benson,‭ ‬N.‭ ‬G.‭ ‬Zverkov,‭ ‬L.‭ ‬C.‭ ‬Soul,‭ ‬M.‭ ‬S.‭ ‬Arkhangelsky,‭ ‬OLambert,‭ ‬I.‭ ‬M.‭ ‬Stenshin,‭ ‬G.‭ ‬N.‭ ‬Uspensky‭ & ‬P.‭ ‬S.‭ ‬Druckenmiller‭ ‬-‭ ‬2017.



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