Sea lizard terrorized the world’s seas 66 million years ago

Sea lizard terrorized the world’s seas 66 million years ago
Sea lizard terrorized the world’s seas 66 million years ago

He had the body of a Komodo dragon, the tail of a shark, and the mouth with teeth of an orca—and that’s how big he was. Furthermore, he was a formidable killer in the world’s seas.

The animal has been named Thalassotitan atrox and lived in the dinosaur age.

The appropriate name comes from the Latin thalassa, which means ‘sea’, atrox, the word for ‘terrible’ and Titan, ‘giant’.

The discovery of the fossil of the terrible sea giant was announced in the magazine Cretaceous Research by researchers from the British University of Bath.

“Thalassotitan was a fantastic, terrifying beast,” the lead researcher behind the discovery, Nick Longrich, said in a press release.

“Imagine a Komodo dragon crossed with a white shark crossed with a T. rex crossed with an orca.”

sea ​​lizard

More specifically, this sea monster – a mosasaur – lived at the end of the Cretaceous Period, 66 million years ago. So it was not a dinosaur but a sea lizard, related to modern iguanas and lizards.

While species like Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops ruled the land 94 million years ago, Thalassotitan ruled the sea.

And there’s evidence that it thrived alongside other mosasaurs—until the meteorite impact that wiped out 75 percent of all living things on Earth 66 million years ago.

It could grow to a length of 40 feet, and with its deadly orca-like teeth it preyed on all kinds of animals: marine reptiles such as plesiosaurs, sea turtles, and occasionally other mosasaurs as large as himself.

Deadly Teeth

The fossil was found and excavated in Morocco, an hour’s drive from Casablanca. At the end of the Cretaceous period, North Africa was covered by the Atlantic Ocean.

The newly found Thalassotitan fossil belonged to an animal that may have been 30 feet (9 meters) long — the size of an orca. The excavation team found, among other things, a 1.4 meter long skull.

While most other mosasaurs had long jaws and thin teeth for catching fish, Thalassotitan had a short, broad nose and large pointed teeth for grasping and dismembering its prey.

So everything indicates that Thalassotitan was at the top of the food chain and played the same role as today’s white sharks and killer whales.

Fossils also show that Thalassotitan could attack so hard that his teeth often broke or worn down to the root.

Petrified with its prey

Another surprise awaited the researchers: during the excavation, remains of possible prey of Thalassotitan turned up.

Large predatory fish, a sea turtle, a 0.5-meter-long plesiosaur head and the jaws and skulls of at least three mosasaur species were found, all of which were found to be affected by stomach acid.

‘We can’t say for sure what species ate all those other mosasaurs. But we have the bones of marine reptiles that were killed and eaten by a large predator,” said Nick Longrich.

“And in the same spot we found Thalassotitan, a species that fits the profile of the killer—a mosasaur that preys on other marine reptiles. That’s probably no coincidence.’

The article is in Dutch

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