Paleontologists at the University of North Florida have discovered one of the oldest mosasaurs at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in southern Utah. Mosasaurs are an extinct family of marine lizards, related to varanas but modern dinosaurs. Their bodies were adapted to swimming, and almost all members of the family were large predators.
The fossilized bones were discovered in 2012 and are represented by small fragments of skull and vertebrae scattered across a wide slope. The fossil reaches an age of 94 million years, making this mosasaur one of the oldest. Scientists note that the animals had already adapted to an aquatic lifestyle, but, unlike later descendants, reached a size of about one meter. A new taxon of these reptiles, Sarabosaurus dahli gen.
Sarabosaurus sheds light on the long-standing questions concerning the kinship of some early Mosasaurs species, and also provides new insight into the evolution of a new type of cranial blood supply observed in a certain group of Mosasaurs.
It is interesting to note that mosasaurs were one of the most successful and diverse groups of marine reptiles during the Cretaceous period. They thrived for 30 million years, existing on land and in water. Mosasaurs were large predators and could reach lengths of up to 17 meters. They had sharp teeth and powerful jaws that helped them easily tear apart their prey.
However, despite their success, mosasaurs went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period, some 66 million years ago. The reasons for the extinction are still unknown, but scientists speculate that catastrophic events, such as an asteroid collision, may have contributed to their extinction.
Although mosasaurs went extinct millions of years ago, studying their remains helps scientists better understand the history of life on our planet. As paleontologists point out, each new find expands our knowledge of the past and helps us better understand the present.