Mosasaur Discovered in Morocco

An exciting discovery has been made in the fossil-rich treasure troves of Morocco!

Known for it’s remarkable phosphate mines, Morocco has been a site of many significant paleontological discoveries, and has produced fossils of world-famous genuses of dinosaurs such as Spinosaurus maroccanus. Most recently, paleontologists have discovered the almost 3 and a half foot long skull of an aquatic mosasaur lizard, naming it “Gavialimimus almaghribensis”, meaning “Seagull Mimic of the Maghreb”.

Life reconstruction of Gavialimimus almaghribensis hunting a school of teleosts. Artist Credit: Tatsuya Shinmura.

The most striking feature of Gavialimimus is, of course, the long snout. This is a common adaptation seen in many piscivorous animals, including seagulls, gharials, spinosaurids to name a few. Another adaptation that Gavialimimus displays are a set of conical, interlocking teeth, which paleontologists know to be an adaptation designed to more efficiently capture the fast moving prey that this animal was used to hunting.

MHNM.KHG.1231 (articulated skull) in dorsal view. A, diagram; B, photograph. Light grey shading indicates the external nares and other openings in the skull. Dark grey shading indicates openings in the skull resulting from taphonomic breakage. Double-dashed lines indicate major breaks in or taphonomic distortion to the corresponding elements. Bracketed numbers indicate tooth positions. Abbreviations: f, frontal; h, humerus; mx, maxilla; oen, opening for the external naris; p, parietal; pf, pineal foramen; pmx, premaxilla; pof, postorbitofrontal; prf, prefrontal; sq, squamosal; stf, supratemporal fenestra; v, vomer. Paired bones are preceded by r (right) or l (left). Scale bar represents 5 cm.

MHNM.KHG.1231 (articulated skull) in ventral view. A, diagram; B, photograph. Black shading represents matrix. Light grey shading indicates the internal nares and other openings in the skull. Dark grey shading indicates openings in the skull resulting from taphonomic breakage. Solid arrows indicate interdental pits; fletched arrowheads indicate replacement teeth. Double-dashed lines indicate major breaks in the corresponding elements. Bracketed numbers indicate tooth positions. Abbreviations: f, frontal; fpf, frontal posteromedian flange; h, humerus; mx, maxilla; p, parietal; pal, palatine; pf, pineal foramen; pmx, premaxilla; pof, postorbitofrontal; prf, prefrontal; smx, septomaxilla; sq, squamosal; stf, supratemporal fenestra; v, vomer; vp, vomerine process of the premaxilla. Paired bones are preceded by r (right) or l (left). Scale bar represents 5 cm.

This animal would have shared the seas with large schools of fish, which would have almost exclusively made up its diet. Gavialimimus is also evidence that mosasaurs had branched out into greatly diverse forms, speaking to their evolutionary success in prehistoric seas.

 

  • Catherine R.C. Strong et al. A new species of longirostrine plioplatecarpine mosasaur (Squamata: Mosasauridae) from the Late Cretaceous of Morocco, with a re-evaluation of the problematic taxon ‘Platecarpus’ ptychodonJournal of Systematic Palaeontology, published online September 28, 2020; doi: 10.1080/14772019.2020.1818322

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