(water spirit chief).
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).
Size: Estimated about 6.5 meters long.
Known locations: Russia.
Time period: Hauterivian of the Cretaceous.
Fossil representation: Almost complete individual.
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
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.
- 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.