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Kaiwhekea (Dmitri Bogdanov)


Kaiwhekea (Maori for "squid eater"); pronounced KY-wheh-KAY-ah


Coasts of New Zealand

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (70 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 20 feet long and 500-1,000 pounds


Fish and squids

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Long neck; short head with needle-like teeth


About Kaiwhekea:

If there was any justice in the world, Kaiwhekea would be much better-known than its fellow New Zealand marine reptile, Mauisaurus: the latter has been reconstructed from a single paddle, whereas Kaiwhekea is represented by a near-complete skeleton (to be fair, though, Mauisaurus was the much bigger beast, tipping the scales at 10 to 15 tons compared to half a ton, max, for its relatively shrimpy competitor). As plesiosaurs go, Kaiwhekea appears to have been most closely related to Aristonectes; its short head and numerous, needle-like teeth point to a diet of fish and squids, hence its name (Maori for "squid eater").

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