Mesosaur ("middle lizards") were an order of small aquatic reptiles that lived during the early Permian period, roughly 299 to 280 million years ago[citation needed]. Mesosaurs were the first aquatic reptiles, having returned to a watery way of life after evolving on land.


The best-known mesosaur is Mesosaurus itself. Fossils of the animal were found in Namibia, Africa [1] and parts of South America, such as Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay. [2] The widespread distribution of the fossil - particularly in those areas of Africa and South America which, when viewed on a map of the Earth, appear to 'interlock' - helped to reinforce the idea of continental drift. [3]

Mesosaurus vaguely resembled a small alligator, although the most common specimens are only 40 centimetres (16 in) in length. Nonetheless, the largest specimen is almost 2 metres (6.6 ft) in length, and Mesosaurus was probably the largest marine reptile of its time. It is believed to have fed on fish, or possibly crustaceans, by using its teeth as a sieve, rather like modern-day whales.

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