Nothosaurs (NOTH-oh-sawrs) were marine sauropterygian reptiles that lived during the entire Triassic period, 245 – 200 million years ago.

Who discovered the first Nothosaurs?

Nothosaurs were named by G. von Meunster in 1834. 

Contemporaries of Nothosaurs during the Triassic period included the swimming marine reptiles; Askeptosaurus, ichthyosaurs Mixosaurus and Ophthalmosaurus. Primitive dinosaurs such as Herrerasaurus, Eoraptor, Staurikosaurus and Lesothosaurus were just beginning to appear during the Triassic period.


Nobu Tamura (, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How big were Nothosaurs?

Nothosaurs were fish-eating reptiles that had long necks, long tails and could reach up to 22 feet in length. Nothosaurs had four paddle-like limbs with webbed fingers and toes which helped them to swim powerfully through the water. They would have moved through the water similar to how a modern day Seal moves.


GhedoghedoGhedoghedo, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Seal like…

Nothosaurs were similar to Seals in their behaviour in that they would hunt their prey in underwater groups. Nothosaurs would leave the water and come ashore to lay their eggs, but would have spent most of their time in the water.

Early salt water crocodiles

Their hind limbs were longer than their fore limbs and their nostrils were located on the top of their long snouts. So, not to dissimilar to a modern day crocodile coming up for air to breath, before diving back into the sea. When not in the sea Nothosaurs could walk on land using it’s strong legs.

Their heads were quite small in relation to their bodies. Nothosaurs had long necks and small, flattened, elongated heads with the edge of the jaws being lined with sharp teeth that pointed outwards.

Where have Nothosaurs fossils been found?

Fossils have been found in what is now classed as Europe including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Further fossils have been discovered in North Africa, China, Israel and Russia.

Two suborders

Nothosaurs are divided into Two suborders – the Pachypleurosaurs, tiny, primitive forms, and the true Nothosaurs, which evolved from pachypleurosaurs.

Nothosaurs are ancestors to the more completely marine plesiosaurs, which replaced them at the end of the Triassic period.


These small reptiles could be between 0.75 – 2 feet (20 – 60 centimetres) long. They had a shorter neck and stubbier toes than other Nothosaurs, which would have limited their swimming ability.

They had a streamlined body and a long, pointed tail. Their back legs had 5 webbed toes with claws, which would have propelled them through the water. Whilst their front legs were more like paddle-like flippers.

Lariosaurus lived during the middle Triassic period, with fossils from the mid-Triassic period being found in Europe.


Nobu Tamura (, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Ceresiosaurus could reach sizes of up to 13 feet (4 metres) long. They had longer toes than the other Nothosaurus and more bones in each of the toes (hyperphalangy).

This made the limbs flipper-like and Ceresiosaurus making this particular animal a very good swimmer, and would have given plesiosaur a run for it’s money in terms of underwater agility.

Ceresiosaurus lived during the mid-Triassic period. Fossils have been found across Europe.


Dmitry Bogdanov, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Pistosaurus could reach sizes of up to 10 feet (3 metres) and would have been found living during the mid-Triassic period.

These creatures had very long necks, four long, paddle-shaped flippers, and a streamlined body. This shape was perfect to speed through the water, making Pistosaurus a very formidable predator.


Nobu Tamura (, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

With many sharp, pointed teeth in long jaws this predator would have eaten prehistoric squid like creatures and fish. Remains of Pistosaurus have been found in Europe, specifically France and Germany.


Last Updated on 15/07/2022 by