Mosasaurus and different mosasaurs of the dinosaur age

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Mosasaurus was a ferocious predator within the historical oceans of the Cretaceous interval (145.5 million to 65.5 million years in the past). Whereas dinosaurs dominated the land, Mosasaurus used its lengthy tail and stumpy, paddle-like limbs to cruise by way of the water, devouring every kind of prey with its large jaws and sharp, cone-shaped enamel. 

Mosasaurus is one genus, or group of species, out of dozens that made up a various household of marine reptiles known as mosasaurs. The mosasaurs dominated the ocean within the late Cretaceous interval . They weren’t sea dinosaurs, however a separate group of reptiles, extra carefully associated to fashionable snakes and lizards, in accordance with the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum

Mosasaurs went extinct 65.5 million years in the past in the identical mass extinction occasion that worn out the dinosaurs, Dwell Science beforehand reported. A Mosasaurus species has since been fictionally resurrected on the large display screen, most notably within the 2015 film blockbuster “Jurassic World,” rising the profile of this mighty group of marine reptiles. 

Associated: T-Rex of the seas: A mosasaur gallery

How massive was Mosasaurus and different mosasaurs?

Mosasaurus species are among the many largest members of the mosasaur household, in accordance with the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum. One of many greatest specimens ever discovered was recognized as Mosasaurus hoffmanni and was estimated to be about 56 ft (17 meters) lengthy in life, in accordance with a 2014 examine printed within the journal Proceedings of the Zoological Institute RAS. Not all mosasaurs have been giants although. Some species, akin to Xenodens calminechari, have been solely in regards to the dimension of a porpoise, Dwell Science beforehand reported. 

The largest Mosasaurus would have been comparable in dimension to the mighty megalodon — a large shark that dominated oceans within the center Miocene and Pliocene epochs (15.9 million to 2.6 million years in the past), lengthy after the mosasaurs went extinct 65.5 million years in the past. Megalodons might have reached as much as 49 to 59 ft (15 to 18 meters) lengthy, in accordance with the Pure Historical past Museum (NHM) in London. Neither of those predators, nonetheless, have been ever as massive as the fashionable blue whale, which may attain as much as 110 ft (34 meters) lengthy and is the largest recognized animal to have ever existed. 

Associated: Newfound historical ‘sea monster’ is largest but from Antarctica 

What did Mosasaurs eat, and the way did they catch it?

The meals chain of marine predators within the Cretaceous interval. A nondescript vertebrate, adopted by a Enchodus, adopted by a Dolichorhynchops, adopted by a big mosasaur.  (Picture credit score: Stocktrek Photographs, Inc. / Alamy Inventory Photograph)

Mosasaurs have been the ocean’s most dominant predator on the finish of the Cretaceous interval and lived the world over’s oceans. Giant mosasaurs would have possible eaten nearly any form of prey they have been capable of catch, together with fish, sharks, sea birds and even different mosasaurs, in accordance with the U.S. Nationwide Park Service. These mosasaurs have been apex predators and might be in comparison with fashionable orcas, whereas different mosasaur species have been extra specialised feeders and tailored to eat shellfish, like fashionable sea otters, Dwell Science beforehand reported.

Often, mosasaur fossils have been preserved with their abdomen contents intact, which helps paleontologists be taught extra about their looking methods. For instance, paleontologists in Canada uncovered a specimen from the species Mosasaurus missouriensis with massive fish bones inside it, in accordance with Nationwide Geographic. The fish was bigger than the mosasaur’s head, and the position of the bones urged the mosasaur had devoured its prey piece by piece. 

Associated: Full stomach fossil! ‘Sea monster’ had 3 others in its intestine 

MOSASAURUS TAXONOMY

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Reptilia

Order: Squamata

Household: Mosasauridae

Genus: Mosasaurus

In one other fossil discover, a juvenile Mosasaurus was discovered within the abdomen of one other mosasaur species, Prognathodon kianda. The fossil, from the Smithsonian Nationwide Museum of Pure Historical past (NMNH), demonstrates that even the most important mosasaur species might be preyed upon. In reality, Mosasaurus hoffmanni fossils have been uncovered with severely damaged and healed jaws that point out they led a violent or harmful way of life, in accordance with a 1995 examine printed within the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

Mosasaurus in all probability hunted in pretty deep waters, however wouldn’t have traveled too removed from the shore, in accordance with the NMNH.

Mosasaurs could have began out swimming by way of the water like a snake or an eel, however mosasaur tails modified over time. The animals advanced to have a shark-like tail to propel themselves by way of the water. They might even have been able to a strong breaststroke, utilizing their paddle-like forelimbs to help in sudden bursts of velocity to catch prey.

How correct was “Jurassic World” mosasaur?

The Mosasaurus depicted in “Jurassic World”. (Picture credit score: AF archive / Alamy Inventory Photograph)

The film “Jurassic World” (2015) options an iconic shot of a large Mosasaurus rocketing out of the water to grab a dangling shark. This big-screen depiction of the traditional sea monster made a number of different appearances within the “Jurassic World” collection, however consultants did not think about the depiction scientifically correct. 

The actual Mosasaurus species have been merely not that massive, paleontologists instructed Dwell Science shortly after “Jurassic World” was launched in 2015. The creature within the movie is about twice the dimensions of the most important recognized mosasaur fossil, in accordance with ReBecca Hunt-Foster, a paleontologist on the Bureau of Land Administration Canyon Nation District, and John Foster, the director of the Museum of Moab. 

Kenneth Lacovara, then a professor of paleontology and geology at Drexel College, additionally acknowledged the marine reptile was too massive however gave the movie “kudos” for together with an correct depiction of the mosasaur’s palatal enamel — a specialised second set of enamel within the animal’s higher mouth, much like these in some snakes and lizards that maintain prey in place and forestall its escape. 

In keeping with Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, the film mosasaur’s motion can be inaccurate, based mostly on a dated interpretation of Mosasaurus swimming like eels or snakes.

Associated: Historical Antarctic sea monster could have laid this football-size egg

What occurred to Mosasaurs?

The mosasaurs disappeared from the fossil report alongside non-avian dinosaurs 65.5 million years in the past, after a large asteroid crashed into Earth on the finish of the Cretaceous interval. The wealthy marine ecosystems that mosasaurs inhabited and depended upon for meals collapsed after the asteroid strike, in accordance with a 2005 examine within the Netherlands Journal of Geosciences. This collapse brought on all mosasaurs to die out, by no means to return. 

The position of dominant ocean predator was as soon as held by marine reptiles that resembled fashionable dolphins, referred to as ichthyosaurs. These animals have been succeeded by the plesiosaurs, which have been then changed by the mosasaurs, in accordance with the Naranjo Museum of Pure Historical past. After mosasaurs disappeared, crocodilians elevated in numbers and took over the position of huge marine predators, in accordance with the Netherlands Journal of Geosciences examine.

Associated: Dinosaur-killing asteroid triggered mile-high tsunami that unfold by way of Earth’s oceans

Further assets

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