Thalattosaurs (meaning "ocean lizards") are a group of prehistoric marine reptiles which lived during the mid-late Triassic Period. Some species of thalattosaur grew to over 4 meters (13 feet) in length, including a long, flattened tail used in underwater propulsion. While they bore a superficial resemblance to lizards, the exact relationships of thalattosaurs is unknown; most experts place them on the reptile family tree somewhere in between the ichthyosaurs and archosaurs.
The Thalattosauria (and family Thalattosauridae
) were named by John C. Merriam
in 1905 for a distinctive group of marine reptiles, at the time containing only the first known species, Thalattosaurus
. The classification of thalattosaurs has varied from study to study, especially since some paleontologists began including the askeptosaurids
as true thalattosaurs. While some authors have placed the traditional thalattosaurs and the askeptosaurids within an expanded Order Thalattosauria, some cladistic
defintions (see Phylogeny below) reserve the name Thalattosauria for a clade
comprising the traditional thalattosaurs, and name the larger thalattosaur-askeptosaurid group Thalattosauriformes
. In studies that use a more inclusive Thalattosauria, the name Thalattosauroidea has been used for the more exclusive thalattosaur group.
The taxonomy presented here includes genera listed in an online survey by Mikko Haaramo, with additional taxa added based on their referral in subsequent papers. Thalattosauria is used in its most inclusive sense after Cheng et al.
, 2007. Note that the family Thalattosauridae
, as it includes the direct ancestors of the family Claraziidae
While Thalattosauria has traditionally been used for the largest group containing all families of "thalattosaurs", several authors have recently used this name for what would otherwise be known as Thalattosauroidea, and used the clade
Thalattosauriformes for the larger group. The phylogeny
presented here again follows Haaramo, 2004.