Dinosaur-Like Reptiles That Lived in Water

It is essential to clarify that no prehistoric aquatic creatures could be accurately called “water dinosaurs.” While some, like Spinosaurus aegyptiacus and Baryonyx walkeri, are believed to be capable of swimming as fish formed a crucial part of their diet, these ancient animals spent most of their time on land. Another misconception that used to exist among paleontologists was that heavy dinosaurs, like Saltasaurus loricatus, would stay in the water to support their body weight. However, this has since been disproved.

This doesn’t mean the prehistoric water bodies lacked dangerous reptiles. In ancient times, these were home to creatures like ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs, who were at the top of the food chain.

Dinosaur-like Reptiles That Lived in Water

List of Aquatic Dinosaur-Like Reptiles

1. Plesiosaurus

Easily recognizable thanks to its small head, long neck, and turtle-like body, Plesiosaurus fed on clams and snails, most likely by ambushing them, as it couldn’t move very quickly thanks to its neck. It gave live birth to its young like modern-day sea snakes.

2. Ichthyosaurus

Ichthyosaurus is very interesting among most marine reptiles, as it is hard to determine which animals they are closely related to. It also gave live birth to its young instead of laying eggs and breathed air, similar to modern whales. These ichthyosaurs are exceptionally well suited for life underwater and can swim at high speeds with the help of their fins and tail.

3. Mosasaurus

Initially believed to be more closely related to snakes, nowadays, Mosasaurus is more closely related to crocodiles. It was an active predator that fed on various aquatic fauna, including birds, bony fish, cephalopods, sharks, and marine reptiles like other mosasaurs and turtles by mainly ambushing them.

4. Nothosaurus

The Nothosaurus was similar to a modern-day seal, with its semi-aquatic lifestyle and long-webbed toes. Its sharp, needle-like teeth would help it hold on to its prey, which would seldom be able to escape.

5. Elasmosaurus

Elasmosaurus has one of the longest necks in the animal kingdom, almost serpentine. However, recent research indicates that it could only raise its head above the water as it couldn’t support the weight of its neck outside. This meant its diet was limited to fish and cephalopods.

6. Kronosaurus

The largest known pliosaur out there, Kronosaurus, would move so fast underwater with its strong paddle-like limbs, it was often said to be “flying underwater.” This let it eat just about anything smaller than it, including smaller pliosaurs and plesiosaurs.

7. Placodus

A stocky reptile with an armored body, Placodus had flat teeth that helped it crush mollusks for feeding. It wasn’t the best suited for life in the water but would use its flat limbs and tail to propel itself while swimming.

8. Liopleurodon

Liopleurodon is a short-necked plesiosaur with powerful flippers. While this propulsion could be more efficient, it allows this ancient creature to move in short bursts of acceleration while hunting.

9. Dolichorhynchops

A plesiosaur with a small neck, Dolichorhynchops would sometimes swim upstream from marine to freshwater environments to swallow gizzard stones. These stones would help them digest their food.

10. Thalattosaurus

Thalattosaurus is known for its upturned snout and paddle-like limbs. They lived in the Triassic period and primarily fed on shellfish.

11. Temnodontosaurus

One of the largest ichthyosaurs, Temnodontosaurus, is widely believed to have the largest eyes in the animal kingdom. They fed on cephalopods and smaller ichthyosaurs.

12. Tanystropheus

While some debate exists over whether Tanystropheus was aquatic or semi-aquatic, its appearance is unique among prehistoric marine reptiles. It has a long neck like most plesiosaurs – longer than its body and tail combined at 9.8 ft – but also has limbs similar to a crocodile.

13. Shastasaurus

According to current fossil records, Shastasaurus was the largest known marine reptile in existence. However, its jaws were short and toothless, indicating a specialized diet of cephalopods.

14. Clidastes

The smallest of all discovered mosasaurs so far, Clidastes most likely lived in shallow waters. However, thanks to its strong tail, it could make sudden swimming movements.

15. Pliosaurus

Once referred to as Predator-X, Pliosaurus was said to be capable of delivering a bite four times stronger than Tyrannosaurus rex.

16. Tylosaurus

The largest of all the mosasaurs, Tylosaurus would use its powerful tail to move quickly to ambush potential prey.