The Cretaceous period lasted from about 145 to 66 million years ago. It’s the longest and the final period of the Mesozoic Era, when hundreds of dinosaur species were roaming the Earth’s surface. Paleontologists are now happy to discover another species that lived during that era, belonging to the mosasaur genus: Gnathomortis stadtmani.
The newly discovered creatures were pretty much living within the seas of North America. The discovery belongs to Dr. Joshua Lively from the Jackson School of Geosciences, who analyzed the partial skull and skeleton of Gnathomortis stadtmani that was found in 1975 in the Mancos Shale of Delta County in western Colorado.
Beware for the jaws of death
Dr. Lively explains the origin of the new mosasaurs’ name:
“The new name, Gnathomortis, is derived from Greek and Latin words for ‘jaws of death’,
“It was inspired by the incredibly large jaws of this species, which measure 1.2 m (4 feet) in length.”
We can bet that many other dinosaurs were frightened by Gnathomortis, as the marine reptile stood out for its tremendous biteforce. Dr. Lively also said:
“What sets this animal apart from other mosasaurs are features of the quadrate — a bone in the jaw joint that also forms a portion of the ear canal,”
Mosasaurs comprise a group of large marine reptiles containing a total of 38 genera. Their first fossil remnants were located in a limestone quarry from Maastricht on the Meuse in 1764. The creatures became extinct due to the K-Pg event from the end of the Cretaceous period. During the last 20 million years of this period, mosasaurs became the dominant marine predators after the extinction of the ichthyosaurs and pliosaurs.
The new study was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02724634.2020.1784183