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Paleontology: Ancient Marine Reptiles

Paleontology: Ancient Marine Reptiles content aligns with parts of the Alberta curriculum for Science 7 and 20 and Bio 20.

Take online for free
A non-credit version of the program is available through Coursera starting September 12th.
Learn more Register now on Coursera
Take for 1 credit as PALEO 203

For UAlberta students: Students can sign up for PALEO 203 for 1 credit in Bear Tracks..

  1. Search Bear Tracks for "Dinosaurs."
  2. Register for the online portion at Coursera.
  3. Start the course on Sept. 3.
Register on Bear Tracks

Topics Covered

LESSON 1: Introduction to Marine Reptiles

Explore the adaptations common to marine reptiles and examine the "aquatic problem."

LESSON 2: Ichthyopterygians

Examine the characteristics and diversity of ichthyosaurs and their closest relatives.

LESSON 3: Sauropterygians

Examine the characteristics and diversity of plesiosaurs and their closest relatives.

LESSON 4: Mosasauroids

Examine the characteristics and diversity of mosasaurs and their closest relatives.


3-5 hours per week


Michael Caldwell
is a professor and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta in Canada. His research is in the area of vertebrate palaeontology, i.e., morphology, phylogeny, evolution, and ecology, etc. Organisms of interest include fossil and living squamates (snakes and lizards) as well as of extinct marine reptiles such as ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs.

Current research is focused on marine and terrestrial snakes from Cretaceous rocks in the southern hemisphere (Gondwana), the cranial anatomy and phylogeny of extant scolecophidian snakes (blind, burrowing snakes), fossil mosasauroids from Upper Cretaceous rocks in New Zealand, Europe, Africa and North America, terrestrial lizards from the Cretaceous rocks of North America, and the molecular genetics of axial elongation in limb-reduced to limbless tetrapods.

About the Course

Paleontology: Ancient Marine Reptiles is a four-lesson course teaching a comprehensive overview of the evolutionary changes that occur when air-breathing terrestrial animals return to water.

This course examines the diversity, adaptations, convergence, and phylogenetic relationships of extinct marine reptiles.

Students will explore three major groups of marine reptiles:

  • ichthyosaurs,
  • plesiosaurs, and
  • mosasaurs.

Course Preview

Take the course for free & learn about ancient life under the sea.

Register now on Coursera