Date of Award


Degree Name

Biological Sciences


College of Science

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

F. Robin O’Keefe

Second Advisor

Paul Constantino

Third Advisor

Suzanne Strait


Plesiosaurs are a group of extinct marine reptiles that thrived during the Mesozoic Era. They are unique for swimming with two hydrofoil-shaped flippers. Penguins, sea turtles, and cetaceans all have hydrofoil shaped flippers but penguins and sea turtles only use the front pair to produce thrust and cetaceans use their tail flukes. Consequently, the mode of swimming for plesiosaurs has long been debated. However, a quantitative study of the hydrodynamic properties of the flippers, which would constrain inference about their mode of swimming, has not yet been done. The main reason is that the trailing edge of the plesiosaur flipper is made up of soft tissue and does not fossilize. I present in this study a way to quantitatively reconstruct the shape of the functional flipper hydrofoil of the plesiosaurs. Subsequently, I present the first quantitative description of the hydrodynamic properties of plesiosaur flippers.