Leptocleidus is an extinct genus of plesiosaur,[1] belonging to the family Leptocleididae.[2]

Temporal range: Early Cretaceous, 140–125 Ma
Leptocleidus BW.jpg
Leptocleidus capensis
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Superorder: Sauropterygia
Order: Plesiosauria
Family: Leptocleididae
Genus: Leptocleidus
Andrews, 1922
  • L. capensis (Andrews, 1911 [originally Plesiosaurus capensis]) Cruikshank, 1997
  • L. clemai Cruikshank and Long, 1997
  • L. superstes Andrews, 1922 (type)
  • Peyerus capensis (Andrews, 1911) Stromer, 1935


In short, the term Leptocleidus means "slender clavicle". It comes from a merge of the Greek words λεπτοσ, meaning "slender" and κλειδ (also spelled κλεισ) meaning clavicle.


Leptocleidus sp.

With large clavicles and interclavicle and small scapulae, Leptocleidus resembled the Early Jurassic Rhomaleosaurus and members of the Cretaceous family, Polycotylidae. The animal had 21 teeth on either side of its maxilla and approximately 35 teeth on each side of the mandible. The Leptocleidus' triangle-shaped skull had a crest running from a ridge on the end of the nose to the nasal region. Differing from other pliosaurids, Leptocleidus had single-headed cervical ribs and a deep depression in the centra of the neck vertebrae. Leptocleidus was on an average of 3 meters (10 feet) long. Leptocleidus superstes however, was found to be almost 50% smaller (1.5m, 5 ft) making it the smallest known species.

Distribution and habitatEdit

L. capensis (Andrews, 1911)
Skull in dorsal view
Skull in palatal view
L. superstes Andrews, 1922
Cranium (lateral view, top left; ventral (palatal) view, top right) and vertebrae. Length of vertebral series approx. 45 cm
Pectoral girdle in dorsal view (left), anterior view (top right), lateral view (bottom right), right humerus (center), and ribs (left). Length of pectoral girdle approx. 40 cm

Leptocleidus, unlike many pleisiosaurs, lived in shallow lagoons and likely visited brackish and fresh water systems (such as the mouths of large rivers). This led Arthur Richard Ivor Cruickshank to infer that this movement to fresh water was an attempt to flee larger plesiosaurs and pliosaurs. Most species are known from The British Isles but L. capensis was discovered in Cape Province, South Africa.


Leptocleidus is known from the following sediments:

A specimen from the Vectis Formation (lower Aptian age), Isle of Wight, found in 1995 and seen as a "Leptocleidus sp.", was named as a separate genus Vectocleidus in 2012.

Cladogram based on Ketchum and Benson (2011):[4]






L. capensis

L. superstes

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Ketchum, H. F.; Benson, R. B. J. (2010). "Global interrelationships of Plesiosauria (Reptilia, Sauropterygia) and the pivotal role of taxon sampling in determining the outcome of phylogenetic analyses". Biological Reviews. 85 (2): 361–392. doi:10.1111/j.1469-185X.2009.00107.x. PMID 20002391.
  2. ^ Smith AS, Dyke GJ. 2008. The skull of the giant predatory pliosaur Rhomaleosaurus cramptoni: implications for plesiosaur phylogenetics. Naturwissenschaften e-published 2008.
  3. ^ Cruikshank A. R. I. (1997). "A lower Cretaceous Pliosauroid from South Africa". Annals of the South African Museum. 105: 206–226.
  4. ^ Hilary F. Ketchum and Roger B. J. Benson (2011). "A new pliosaurid (Sauropterygia, Plesiosauria) from the Oxford Clay Formation (Middle Jurassic, Callovian) of England: evidence for a gracile, longirostrine grade of Early-Middle Jurassic pliosaurids". Special Papers in Palaeontology. 86: 109–129. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4983.2011.01083.x.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)

Further readingEdit

  • O'Keefe F. R. (2001). "A cladistic analysis and taxonomic revision of the Plesiosauria (Reptilia: Sauropterygia)". Acta Zoologica Fennica. 213: 1–63.

External linksEdit