Giant mosasaurus dominated the seas on the eve of the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event

(ORDO NEWS) — Paleontologists have described the hitherto unknown killer of the late Cretaceous, the Thalassotitan mosasaurus, which held the position of top marine predator, as today’s killer whales and great white sharks.

At that distant time, when dinosaurs dominated land, the oceans remained the realm of marine reptiles: first – ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs, and later – mosasaurs , which flourished in the last period before the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction about 66 million years ago.

Some of these animals gained more than 10 meters in length and kept at the top of the food pyramids in their ecological niches. A new superpredator mosasaurus was described by paleontologists from the British University of Bath.

Fossilized remains were found on the territory of modern Morocco and attributed to the upper Cretaceous period, on the eve of extinction. In that era, tyrannosaurs and triceratops roamed the land.

The waters of the Atlantic Ocean covered the north of Africa, where plankton grew abundantly, which fed a mass of marine animals.

These animals, apparently, fed mosasaurs, which Nicholas Longrich (Nicholas Longrich) and his colleagues gave the name Thalassotitan atrox.

Mosasaurs are distant relatives of modern monitor lizards, they even looked like them, except that they carried fins instead of legs, and the tail was flattened for swimming. Thalassotitan atrox looked something like this, while gaining amazing size.

Only one skull of an animal reached one and a half meters, and in its entirety – over nine meters. An important feature of this predator was the structure of the jaws – rather short and wide, armed with massive conical teeth, like those of the same killer whales.

Giant mosasaurus dominated the seas on the eve of the Cretaceous Paleogene extinction event 2
The dimensions of the skull can be estimated from the picture of Nick Londrich himself against his background

This indicates that Mosasaurus fed not only on fish, but on a very wide range of prey, occupying the same position in its ecosystems that killer whales or great white sharks today are apex predators, preying on everything that gets in their way.

Recall that sometimes killer whales attack even blue whales, the largest animals in the world. Numerous damage to the teeth of the mosasaurus speaks of the same, which is completely uncharacteristic of animals specializing in fish. Most likely, T. atrox attacked other mosasaurs, which were much better protected than fish.

Giant mosasaurus dominated the seas on the eve of the Cretaceous Paleogene extinction event 3
Reconstruction of the marine apex predator Thalassotitan

Indeed, such victims were found next to the remains of the predator itself. Next to them were bones and teeth of a large predatory fish, a sea turtle, a plesiosaur, and at least three other mosasaurs that retained traces of acid exposure. Scientists speculate that they were eaten by T. atrox , left as separate fragments not suitable for digestion.

“We can’t say exactly which species of animals these mosasaurs ate. But we have the bones of marine reptiles killed and eaten by a large predator. And they were found in the same place as Thalassotitan , a species that exactly fits the profile of the killer, Nick Londrich noted . “ Thalassotitan was an amazing, intimidating animal.”

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