Picture this if you will. It’s the Late Cretaceous period and you’re a marine animal, swimming along minding your own business. Suddenly, you see a shadow looming over you. Fifty feet of reptile swims above you, and you realize – you are toast.
Who is this monstrous beast that ruled the oceans millions of years ago? Allow me to introduce you to the Mosasaur – the most terrifying reptile in history.
Mosasaurs didn’t start off all that impressively. In fact, they were initially 3 foot lizards. These little guys scampered around the land, eating whatever they could find. But the story doesn’t end there. On one fateful day, proto-Mosasaur decided to take a dip in the water. And with that, it began an evolutionary journey unlike any other.
You know nature – she likes to show off sometimes. Over the course of 6 million years, piddly little Mosasaur lizard became 10, then 30…then fifty feet long. Its body streamlined, its feet became webbed paddles and it became a menace in the water.
Mosasaurs were quite possibly the best equipped killers to ever walk our planet. They made Jaws look like a Chia Pet.
Why? It’s all about efficiency.
Ears: Although Mosasaurs needed air to live, they spent most of their time underwater. Sound travels much faster underwater than on land. To further exploit this, Mosasaurs had an internal amplification system that made everything sound 38 times louder. All the better to hear you with, my dear.
Balance: If you’ve ever had a wonky ear infection, you also know that your inner ear controls your balance. In lizards, the inner ear is also important for keeping one upright. But in the water, Mosasaur moved in 3 dimensions. Having a well tuned inner ear is a disadvantage. Early Mosasaurs were probably seasick. However, over time they lost their sensitive inner ear. This made them capable of spinning and winding though the water in ways that would make even Flipper jealous. Although they were incredibly long and large creatures, Mosasaurs were quick, agile and downright graceful in the water.
Teeth: It wasn’t enough for Mosasaur to have wicked teeth on his upper and lower jaw. No, he had to go and have teeth on the roof of his mouth too. These pterygoid teeth could move independently to help propel food down its throat. Any food (including sharks) that got caught on its teeth had no choice but to head to the back of the mouth. This hellish mix of teeth was capable of ripping off four feet of flesh in one bite. That’s a 20 foot animal in five bites, people. Game over.
Attitude: Even today, there are few species of animal that seem to kill their own kind deliberately ‘for no reason’. Sharks, snakes and even crocodiles don’t seem to do it. But Mosasaurs were different. Judging by the scarring found on fossil skulls, Mosasaurs often killed and did not eat other Mosasaurs. They engaged in what is called ‘snout wrestling’ – the same that we see in saltwater crocs today. However the difference is, after snout wrestling, the winning Mosasaur would often break the neck of the loser. *shudder*
In a time when being impossibly big and scary was the norm, Mosasaur was King. So why didn’t he survive to this day?
Nothing on the planet at the time could hold a candle to Mosasaur skill. Instead, we have an asteroid to thank for wiping them out. If it weren’t for that asteroid, mammals probably wouldn’t have come about and Mosasaur would most definitely be stalking the seas to this day.
Imagine what ocean travel would be like with Mosasaurs lurking beneath?
Guest Author: Jess Morrison, WildEarthIntegration
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