By Chelsea Reed
The mosasaur is a fascinating creature. This ancient, warm-blooded, marine reptile once lurked the Earth’s primal oceans. While T-Rex dinosaurs ruled the land, mosasaurs dominated the sea. People herald them as the last of the “Great Marine Reptiles.”
The mosasaur is not a dinosaur – it is its own animal. There are 40 species identified so far! Did you know that mosasaur fossil discoveries are found all over the world? Scholars found them from North America to Europe, Asia, Africa, and even Antarctica!
Every mosasaur had a sleek body with a long tail, and ranged in size from 3 to 50 feel long. Its head was smaller, but strong and reptilian. It had flippers and was very fast! It's thought that mosasaurs were kin to snakes and monitor lizards. Recent discoveries show it had fins near the end of its tail... like a shark! This allowed this amazing predator to make powerful propelled movements toward its prey.
Paleontologists discover exciting information about this ancient creature all the time! A few years ago, scientists found skin impressions on mosasaur fossil bones. They identified melanin in these impressions, revealing that mosasaurs had darker scales on top with lighter colored abdomens. A coloration that is excellent for underwater hunters!
What did a day in the life of a mosasaur look like? There was never a dull moment! It felt right at home swimming around in the shallow areas of an open ocean. Some species lived in freshwater rivers. It made occasional trips to the surface for air, like a sea turtle.
Meat was always on the menu for a mosasaur’s daily cuisine. Some smaller species had round teeth for grinding ammonites, fish and shellfish. Larger mosasaurs consumed birds, fish, sea turtles, sharks... and even smaller mosasaurs! Their sleek jaws had flexible joints like snakes. Two rows of sharp teeth in the upper jaw helped it to hold its prey, and swallow it whole. A mosasaur would be awesome to see in person... but it would likely have you as its next dinner!
How would a mosasaur sleep? Who knows! But we do know other things about them. A study revealed that mosasaurs gave live birth in the open ocean. A “mom” could have more offspring shortly after the birth of the last one. She could birth several babies in her lifetime. It's thought that mosasaurs did not spend much time caring for their young. This is true for most reptiles today.
As the “Great Marine Reptiles,” the mosasaur enjoyed its place at the top of the food chain. But even this formidable creature had to be wary of certain dangers. Larger mosasaurs and sharks were primary threats.
A mosasaur was no match for the bulky megalodon. Underwater volcanic eruptions were also a problem. Until their extinction, mosasaurs lived well and were abundant. Many scholars think they were one of the most successful prehistoric animals on Earth.
Could mosasaurs have swam the waters near the Outer Banks? We may never know. But…you can find evidence of them at Michael’s Gems and Glass! You can check them out right here, or stop by the store for our full selection. Then you can tell your friends how you witnessed a part of natural history in person!
Chelsea Reed is a freelance copywriter. She writes articles, blogs, websites and online content from her base in North Carolina.