Facts about Mosasaurs, an extinct prehistoric animal

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Dinosaur Jungle   >   Other Prehistoric Animals   >   Mosasaurs



Click here for more Mosasaur Pictures

Scientific Classification
  Kingdom Animalia
  Phylum Chordata
  Class Sauropsida
  Order Squamata
  Suborder Scleroglossa
  Infraorder Anguimorpha
  Family Mosasauridae
Mosasaurs are a group of extinct marine reptiles. They were powerful swimmers with long streamlined snake-like bodies (although they did have four limbs all finned, and possibly a finned tail), and ate fish, turtles, sea urchins, and shellfish including molluscs. The smallest known mosasaur was about 10 feet (3 meters) long, but the largest grew as long as 57 feet (17.5 meters).

Mosasaurs were not dinosaurs, but were lepidosaurs (reptiles with overlapping scales, the group that includes lizards, snakes, and sphenodonts such as the tuatara):
  • Mosasaurs are believed to have evolved from aigialosaurs, which were semi-aquatic lizards that lived during the early Cretaceous period, and who are believed to be related to monitor lizards.

  • In 1869, Edward D. Cope suggested that Mosasaurs and snakes share a common marine ancestor. This idea was based on the similarities observed in Mosasaur and snake jaws, the reduced limbs, and the fact that Mosasaurs may have moved in a similar way to snakes. In the 1990s, the discovery of fossils of early snakes with vestigial limbs in marine sediments seemed to provide support for this hypothesis. However, more recently, other early snake fossils have been found, and since these show animals with hind limbs and an apparently burrowing lifestyle, some doubt has been cast on the idea that Mosasaurs and snakes shared a common ancestor.
Mosasaur skeletions:
Mosasaur fossils

Mosasaurs appear to have first evolved during early or middle Cretaceous period, perhaps around 96 million years ago. In the last 20 million years of the Cretaceous, following the extinction of Ichthyosaurs, they became the dominant predators. However, all Mosasaurs died out during the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous period.

The first publicized discovery of a Mosasaur fossil occurred in 1778. A fossil was found in a limestone quarry in 1780, near the city of Masstricht in Holland. It was not however named or scientifically described until later, the name eventually given, Mosasaur, means "Meuse lizard", and refers to the nearby Meuse River. Subsequently, other fossils which had been found earlier in the same area, and had been on display since around 1770, were also identified as being from a Mosasaur. Since then, other Mosasaur fossils have been found in many other countries around the world, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Sweden, and the United States, as well as in Africa and off the coast of Antarctica.

Mosasaurs Timeline:

Mosasaurs were marine reptiles that lived between 96 and 65 million years ago

Mosasaurs were marine reptiles that lived between 96 and 65 million years ago

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