dinosaur museum

Elasmosaurus platyurus

Pronounced (EE-LAS-MOH-SOAR-US PLAT-E-U-RUS)


Nickname: “Cope’s Mistake”
Discovered By: Theophilus Turner, 1867
Discovery Location:Logan County, Kansas
Location of Original Specimen: Philadelphia Academy of Natural Science, Philadelphia, Pennslyvania
Diet: Fish (Piscivorous)
Period: Late Cretaceous
Age: 80 million years
Formation: Pierre Shale
Length: 42 ft

Discovered in 1867 by a passing pioneer and collected the following year by an army surgeon stationed at Fort Wallace, Kansas, this huge Elasmosaur is famous for the historic role it played in launching the “Fossil Wars” of the late 19th Century.

Dr. Cope’s description of the animal placed the head at the tip of the tail, and it was published before he could stop the presses. Dr. Marsh publicly pointed out this mistake to the great embarrassment of Dr. Cope, and their bitter rivalry began. For over 20 years, their field teams explored the West in an intense competition for the most spectacular new fossils.

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