The Experimental Method

Manufacturing the Flippers

The plesiosaur flippers are modified limbs specialised for aquatic locomotion. As only the bones remain as fossils, the soft tissue such as the muscles and skin must be reconstructed to obtain the shape. This was done by comparing the flippers of the plesiosaur to extant animals that swim using flippers such as turtles, sea-lions, and penguins.

Flippers were 3D printed in ABS with dye injection ports, they are around 1.2 scale.

The demonstration experiment

The demonstration experiment is a simplified version of the real experiment. The scale is about 1:10, so the real thing is 10 times larger in each direction.

The Real Experiment

A ‘robotic plesiosaur’ that provides two axes of motion to each flipper (pitch and heave) was built on top of a flume tank.

The flume tank used for the real experiment is 14m long so that flippers which are 0.5m long can be used. There is a carriage system mounted on top which provides 5 axes of motion to the flippers.