Named By: Peggy Vincent, Nathalie Bardet, Xabier Pereda Suberbiola, Baâdi Bouya, Mbarek Amaghzaz & Saïd Meslouh - 2011.
Classification: Chordata, Reptilia, Sauropterygia, Sauropterygia, Elasmosauridae.
Species: Z. oceanis (type).
Size: Uncertain due to lack of fossil material.
Known locations: Morocco, Oulad Abdoun Basin.
Time period: Maastrichtian of the Cretaceous.
Fossil representation: Incomplete skull and mandible (lower jaw) that was crushed from above, and a single complete mandible.
only described from a skull Zarafasaura was one of
the last surviving
elasmosaurid plesiosaurs active around North Africa, a region that
in the past has yielded very little in the way of plesiosaur remains.
Part of this problem is Africa’s harsh climate that can quickly erode
and damage exposed fossils. The discovery of Zarafasaura
Maastrichtian age rocks suggests that the elasmosaurid plesiosaurs had
not declined by the end of the Cretaceous as much as previously
Zarafasaura is noted as having a palate and squamosal that are different to other currently known elamosaurids. Skull reconstruction of Zarafasaura shows it to have numerous long sharp teeth that intermeshed together when the jaws closed. This was an effective prey trap for use against marine creatures like fish and squid which probably would have been swallowed whole as the teeth are not suited for shearing prey into smaller pieces.
Zarafasaura was named from a combination of the Arabic for giraffe, and the Greek for lizard. The species name Z. oceanis is Latin for ‘daughter of the sea’.