Temporal range: Middle Triassic
DK Nothosaurus stef xltimn qzxh1k
A restoration of Nothosaurus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Clade: Sauropterygia
Order: Nothosauroidea
Suborder: Nothosauridae
Genus: Nothosaurinae
Münster, 1834
Species: N. mirabilis

The best known Nothosaur is Nothosaurus (Greek for "false lizard"). It had a long, narrow snout and fang-like teeth. small teeth lined it's jaws all the way to the back of the cheek region. Eight species of nothosaurs have been found in europe and the middle east. In the early Triassic, a rise in sea levels allowed Nothosaurus to invade a shallow sea in what is now Israel. New species of Nothosaurs evolved there, including a specialized dwarf species, the average Nothosaur grew to about 3 metres (9 ft) long. It lived 240-210 MYA.


Nothosaurus was a semi-oceanic animal which probably had a lifestyle similar to that of today's seals. It was about 4 metres (13 ft), with long, webbed toes and possibly a fin on its tail. When swimming, Nothosaurus would use its tail, legs, and webbed feet to propel and steer it through the water. The skull was broad and flat, with long jaws, lined with needle teeth, it probably caught fish and other marine creatures. Nothosaurus hunted by sneaking up slowly on prey, such as shoals of small fish, then putting on a last-minute burst of speed. Trackways attributed, partly by process of elimination, to a Nothosaur, that were reported from Yunnan, China in June 2014, were interpreted as the paddle impressions left as the animals dug into soft seabed with rowing motions of their paddles, churning up hidden benthic creatures that they snapped up. Once caught, few animals would be able to shake themselves free from the mouth of Nothosaurus.

In many respects its body structure resembled that of the much later plesiosaurs, but it was not as well adapted to an aquatic environment. It is thought that one branch of the nothosaurs may have evolved into plesiosaurs such as Liopleurodon, a short-necked plesiosaur that grew up to 6.4 metres (21 ft), and the long-necked Cryptoclidus, a fish eater with a neck as long as 9 metres (30 ft).


There are nearly a dozen known species of Nothosaurus. The type species is N. mirabilis, named in 1834 from the Germanic Muschelkalk. Other species include N. giganteus (previously known as Paranothosaurus) from Osnabrück, Germany;[4] N. juvenilis, also from Germany;[5] N. edingerae from the Upper Muschelkalk and Lower Keuper;[6] N. haasi and N. tchernovi from Makhtesh Ramon, Israel;[7][8] N. cymatosauroides from the Spanish Muschelkalk;[9] N. jagisteus from the Upper Muschelkalk of Hohenlohe, Germany;[10] and N. youngi, N. yangjuanensis (and its junior synonym N. rostellatus) and the recently named N. zhangi from Guizhou, China.[11][12][13][14] Several species have been described from the Lower Muschelkalk in Winterswijk, the Netherlands, including N. marchicus[15] (and its junior synonym[16] N. winterswijkensis[15]) and N. winkelhorsti.[17] Recently, the long considered lost type material of N. schimperi Meyer, 1842 from the Lower Muschelkalk of Soultz-les-Bains, Alsace, France, has been rediscovered and a lectotype has been designated.[18]

Klein and Albers (2009) conducted a phylogenetic analysis, but did not test the monophyly of Nothosaurus, as other nothosaurids were not included in their analysis.[17]

N. edingerae
N. giganteus
N. mirabilis
N. haasi
N. tchernovi
N. jagisteus
N. marchicus
N. winterswijkensis
N. youngi
N. yangiuanensis
N. juvenilis
N. winkelhorsti


Nothosaurus lived in warm shallow seas and rivers, so it would most likely eat animals like fish and crabs, it may also have eaten eggs, a Nothosaurus fossil was found with a Coelophysis hatchling in its stomach area implying that either Coelophysis babies were extremely careless or Nothosaurs ambushed young dinosaurs either by crawling on land or ambushing them the same way crocodiles do.

Nothosaurus by Rafael77

Possibly what Nothasaurus looked like.

In Popular Culture[]

  • Nothosaurus was shown in the documentary Chased By Sea Monsters. They are shown first at the surface, curiously investigating Nigel, Nigel holds one like an alligator until it needs to breathe.
  • It also appears briefly in Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure in the timeline sequence.

    Chased By Sea Monsters Nothosaurus.


    Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure Nothosaurus.

    Sea rex 546

    Sea Rex Nothosaurus.

  • In the Rite of Spring segment of Disney's Fantasia, Nothosaurus is briefly depicted; feeding its young and as the anachronistic prey of Dimetrodon. This is inaccurate because Nothosaurus lived on the mid to late triassic while dimetrodon lived in the mid Permian.
    Fantasia Nothosaurus

    Fantasia Nothosaurus.

  • It also appears in Son of Kong, where the Nothosaurus that attacks Denham, Hilda and Kiko after they uncover the treasure, only to be killed by Kiko.
    Son of kong nothosaurus

    Nothosaurus in Son of Kong.

  • Nothosaurus makes an appearance in season 5 in Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous.
  • Nothosaurus makes an appearance in Jurassic World Evolution 2 via the Prehistoric Marine Species Pack released on August 10th, 2023. It's design is based on its appearance in Camp Cretaceous.