The first Elasamosaurus fossil was described by the famous American paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope in 1868. Cope was a fossil lizard expert, and this led to a curious mistake. Lizards have short necks and very long tails. Plesiosaurs like Elasmosaurus, in contrast, have short tails and long necks – no other reptile looks like this. Cope was in a hurry to publish his description of Elasmosaurus, and in his haste, he put the skull on the end of the tail, thinking that it was the neck. Given what was known at the time about reptiles, this was an understandable mistake, it was extremely embarrassing. Cope spend a lot of time and money trying to buy back all of the copies of his original description so that he could correct his mistake and put the head on the right end of the animal.