When the world and I were somewhat younger, I started the research for a hook that was going to he about the origin, evolution, and extinction of life in the sea. I wanted to write about the formation of the earth, the earliest and the later life-forms —invertebrates to vertebrates, trilobites to ammonites, lunghshes to whales. I was going to devote a certain amount of space to the fate of those creatures that are no longer with us and those that still are, as "living fossils." 1 thought I would also discuss the enigmatic disappearance of the dinosaurs and the ancient marine reptiles. It soon became obvious that those subjects were too many and too diverse to incorporate into a single book, so in a fashion that has come to define my modus operandi, I reduced the scope of the project, kept some of the material I had written, and filed the rest away for future use. In the original plan, one of the first subjects I tackled was the marine reptiles, because they seemed so close in spirit and habitat to other large vertebrates I had already dealt with —sharks and whales —and also because, as far as I knew, there hadn't been a proper book written about these neglected creatures since Samuel Williston's 1914 Water Reptiles Past and Present. (In 1997, Academic Press published Ancient Marine Reptiles, but this was a collection of disparate articles, and although they were all important, taken as a whole, it was not the book I had in mind.)

Not surprisingly, the material about ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and mosa-saurs was so extensive that it soon became evident that these marvelous creatures deserved more than a summary chapter in a book about everything, so they became the first casualties. (Also put aside was the question of whether there was water on Mars or on Jupiter's moon Europa; a discussion of the fascinating hut ridiculously wrongheaded idea that all the fossils ol Archaeopteryx were forgeries; and the whole section on extinction —past, present, and future —which will become another book.) In 2001, Aauagenesis: The Origin and Evolution of Life in the Sea, was published, and I still had a lot of neat stuff left over. In a manner of speaking, this book was rescued from the scrap heap.

In 1974, I was commissioned to do a series of whale paintings for Audubon magazine. Back then, before anyone had actually dived with whales and photographed them underwater, the only people who purportedly knew what they looked like were whalers and a small band of cetologists. I packed up my sketches and drove to Woods Hole, where I was planning to show them to Bill Schevill, probably America's foremost cetologist. I had never actually seen a living whale, so I needed someone to make sure that I wasn't too far off the mark. (He commented that my humpbacks were perhaps "too gaily spangled.") Bill's approval of the paintings essentially started me on the long journey through the subject matter of whales, dolphins, sharks, sea monsters, deep oceans, Atlantis, giant squid, and evolution. What a pleasant surprise, then, to see that Bill Schevill also played a role in the subject of this book, the extinct marine reptiles. In 1931, as a budding paleontologist, he led a Harvard University expedition to Queensland, Australia, where they unearthed an almost complete skeleton of the giant pliosaur Kronosaurus, now on display in the Museum of Comparative Zoology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Another person who played an inadvertent role in the preparation of this book was Bob Bakker. In 1975 (I was doing a lot of illustration work back then), the art director of Scientific American asked me to go to Harvard University to consult with a young paleontologist named Robert Bakker on an illustration of a distant dinosaur relative that was to appear on the cover of the April issue, featuring Bakker's groundbreaking article on warm-blooded dinosaurs. I met with Bakker, we "designed" a color scheme for Longisquama, and we talked a lot about dinosaurs. I was fascinated to learn that there had been all kinds of gigantic seagoing reptiles, all of which, like the terrestrial dinosaurs, were extinct. Over the years, Bakker and I talked about doing a book on the ichthyosaurs, mosasaurs, and plesiosaurs, and although he wrote many articles about them, we never managed to do the book together. That I have written this book is largely because of his introduction and inspiration, and I suspect that it would have been a better book —it certainly would have been more controversial —if we had collaborated.

Mark Norell's only connection with Harvard —as far as I know —is that he went to graduate school at Yale. As a friend (and also as the chair of the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History), he has been steadfast in his support of my forays into the gullies and minefields of paleontology, even going so far as to make me a research associate in his department. This, of course, means that the extensive resources of this great museum are available to me, especially the library, where I work in wonderment at the richness of the published material, all under the creative stewardship of Tom Moritz, the head of Library Services (in other words, head librarian).

Chris McGowan of the Royal Ontario Museum has done more work on ichthvosaurs than anybody else, and some of that work was done in the venerable American Museum of Natural History in New York City. I first met Chris at the museum in 1997, and since then I have been corresponding with him on the fascinating lives of the ichthyosaurs. He read my chapter on the "fish lizards" and made many corrections, but any mistakes or errors of interpretation that managed to withstand his critical eye are mine alone. Another practicing ichthyosaurologist is Ryosuke Motani, who is now at the University of Oregon. 1 pestered him and McGowan with endless questions about the intricacies of ichthyosaur paleontology, phylogeny, and anatomy. Motani also maintains a marvelous website ( ichthyo/index) that is devoted —as he is —to explaining the wonder and mysteries of ichthyosaurs.

In 1999, because I was working on Aquagenesis, a book about the origin and evolution of life in the sea, I attended a meeting in Copenhagen enticingly titled "Secondary Adaptation to Life in Water." I got a lot of material and references on the evolution of whales, seals, manatees, and penguins, but I also met Niels Bonde and Per Christiansen, participants in the meeting because they were working on a giant mosasaur skull from Israel that was at the Geological Museum in Copenhagen (described on page 225 of this book). Per read my description and corrected my misinterpretations. Also in Copenhagen was Betsy Nicholls of the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, one of the world's foremost authorities on marine reptiles. I bothered her in Copenhagen, and when she thought she had escaped safely to Canada, I found her there and continued to ask embarrassingly simple-minded questions. (At the Copenhagen meeting, Betsy presented an early discussion of the excavation of the giant ichthyosaur discussed on page 89.)

In 1997, I was invited to Edinburgh to repaint a giant squid model. (I was then working on a book called The Searchfor the Giant Squid, and I had developed a preternatural interest in the models found in museums around the world.) I painted the Scottish squid, but more important, I met Mike Taylor, who is the museums curator of vertebrate paleontology. Mike was also at the 1999 Copenhagen symposium, and after listening to his presentation, I realized that I had found the perfect person to alleviate my confusion about almost everything. I shamelessly badgered him with inane and sophomoric questions, trying once again to master a subject (the marine reptiles) that I found utterly fascinating.

One of the first things I did when I commenced this study was the same thing any student does when beginning a term paper: I searched the Internet. To my surprise (and, I must admit, satisfaction), almost every quest for information on plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs, and especially mosasaurs, produced the same website: "Oceans of Kansas," the brainchild and production of Mike Everhart, now adjunct curator of paleontology at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, Kansas. Mike has collected and posted an incredible amount of information (and illustrations) on the fossils of Kansas, and although there is much to be found on his website, there was much that I wanted to know that wasn't there, so Mike became another victim of my unfulfillable curiosity. Thanks, Mike, for putting up with me, and congratulations on your forthcoming book called (of all things) Oceans of Kansas.

Ben Creisler of Seattle created the on-line "Translation and Pronunciation Guides" (, but despite the comprehensiveness of this reference, the insatiable researcher always finds more questions to ask, and Ben was extraordinarily patient with me, providing answers that were probably right in front of me. A freelance researcher and linguist, Ben kindly gave me permission to use that information in these accounts and also provided valuable assistance in some problematic translations of scientific names from Greek or Latin, of which this book contains an inordinate number.

When I first encountered the name Thcagarten Lingham-Soliar, he was affiliated with the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, and he was difficult to contact. When he moved to the University of Durban-Westville in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa, I finally got in touch with him. He has published extensively on marine reptiles —mostly mosasaurs, but also plcsio-saurs and ichthyosaurs —and "Solly" was most generous with his time and expertise. He read my chapter on mosasaurs and made so many suggestions that he probably ought to be listed as a coauthor, and maybe even coillustra-tor. When I completed a mosasaur drawing, I would scan it and send it to him in Kwazulu-Natal. He would then comment on the drawing ("too fat; neck too short; stripes too prominent"), and with his suggestions before me, I would make the necessary changes. (For someone who is still drawing with pen and ink on illustration board, the idea of instantaneously sending drawings halfwav around the world is breathtaking. Others who and commented on entire chapters were Ken Carpenter of the Denver Museum of Natural History; Leslie Noc of the Sedgwick Museum, University of Cambridge; Ryosuke Motani of the University of Oregon; and Mark Norell of the American Museum of Natural History. Even though they know far more about the various subjects than I do, there were times that I simply refused to change what I had written, and this stubbornness has undoubtedly resulted in mistakes. In other words, mea culpa.

A heartfelt note of gratitude goes to Darren Naish (University of Portsmouth, U.K.), who read the entire manuscript with such care that he made suggestions on every aspect of the work, ranging from spelling corrections to taxonomic interpretations. Without his meticulous attention to detail, this would have been a considerably less accurate study. The same gratitude is due to Colin McHenry of Queensland, whose specialty is plesiosaurs but whose knowledge of the literature, taxonomy, biomechanics, and a number of other marine reptile fields is encyclopedic. Darren and Colin both sent me elaborate notes and critiques of the manuscript, and I made many of the changes they suggested. To acknowledge every such correction in print would have been unwieldy, but when 1 quoted directly from their letters to me (which in Colin's case often took the form of ten-page essays), I credited them.

Among the others who answered my constant stream of questions (I am thankful for c-mail, but they may not be) with exquisite patience were Dave Martill of the University of Portsmouth (U.K.), Peter Doyle of the University of Greenwich (U.K.), Bill Sarjcant of the University of Saskatchewan, Dale Russell of North Carolina State University, Mike Caldwell of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Judy Massare of the State University of New York at Brockport, Larry Witmer of the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Robin O'Keefe of the New York College of Os-teopathic Medicine, Michael Maisch of Tubingen, Nathalie Bardct of the Natural History Museum in Paris, Anne Schulp of the Natuurhistische Museum in Maastricht, Ben Kear of the South Australian Museum in Adelaide, Caitlin Kicrnan, Kazuo Takahashi, Douglas Palmer, and Dan Varncr.

At a symposium in Lawrence, Kansas, on Moby Dick in American art, I met the editor of the accompanying book, Unpaitited to the Last. This was Mike Briggs, editor-in-chief of the University Press of Kansas, and when he agreed to publish this book, I dusted off the old hies about mosasaurs, ichthyosaurs, and plcsiosaurs and began to do the drawings that I thought would help reveal the long-hidden mysteries of the extinct marine reptiles. He edited this book too, and our chance meeting over a discussion of the white whale has produced a durable relationship of mutual respect and admiration. As he has done for the past 30 years, my agent Carl Brandt managed to place my ungainly and overstuffed manuscript in the capable hands of someone who could turn it into a proper book. Once again, Stephanie was along for the ride, and as always, I am grateful for her support and loyalty. She keeps me happy, and she also keeps me honest.

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