The Triassic diapsids were a very varied group. Some developed long necks for various feeding purposes. These tended to exist along the shoreline, feeding on the variety of foods to be found there. Others remained more generalized, with a familiar lizard-like build, and evolved into thegroup that survives today in the form of the lone genus of tuatara.
The neck bones, when first found, were thought to have been limb bones, possibly the wing bones of flying reptiles. The first remains were discovered in the 1850s and until the 1920s it wasreconstructed as a gliding creature rather like a flying squirrel. Study of the animal recommenced in the 197〇s, led by Rupert Wild of Stuttgart, and it is on his findings that modern restorations are based.
There is no agreement about how the neck was held or was used. What does seem to be evident is that Tanystropheus lived along the shoreline. The head and neck make it a water animal, but the rest of the body is distinctly terrestrial.
Features: The most obvious feature of Tanystropheus is the neck consisting of about two thirds of the length of the animal, made up of 12 extremely long vertebrae, making it stiff but not totally inflexible. The skull is large and in the adult carries teeth like those of a fish-eater, but in the juvenile more like those of an insectivore. The adult teeth are long and interlocking at the front, like those of a plesiosaur, and strong and sharp at the back. The body is slender and the tail moderately long with a thick base.