Dallas, Texas, USA, primitive mosasaur fossil found


Mosasaur

From Science Daily:

Date: 2005-11-16

Missing Fossil Link ‘Dallasaurus‘ Found

When amateur fossil finder Van Turner discovered a small vertebra at a construction site near Dallas 16 years ago, he knew the creature was unlike anything in the fossil record.

Scientists now know the significance of Turner’s fossil as the origin of an extinct line of lizards with an evolutionary twist: a land-dwelling species that became fully aquatic.

Turner took the remains to paleontologists at the Dallas Museum of Natural History, but it took several years before scientists dubbed the find Dallasaurus turneri.

Word of Dallasaurus is now reaching the scientific community with a special issue of the Netherlands Journal of Geosciences, featuring an article by Southern Methodist University paleontologist Michael Polcyn and Gordon Bell Jr. of Guadalupe National Park in Texas.

They describe Dallasaurus, a three-foot long lizard who lived 92 million years ago in the shallow seas and shores of what was then a stretch of Texas mostly under water, and also used the fossil to better understand the mosasaur family tree.

Polcyn and Bell painstakingly pieced together an understanding of the anatomy and natural history of Dallasaurus from the bones Turner discovered and from some matching skeletal remains at the Texas Memorial Museum at the University of Texas in Austin.

Dallasaurus represents a missing link in the evolution of a group of creatures called mosasaurs, prehistoric animals that started out on land, but evolved in the seas and dominated the oceans at the same time dinosaurs ruled the land.

One aspect of Polcyn and Bell’s research is the revelation that Dallasaurus retained complete limbs, hands and feet suitable for walking on land, whereas later mosasaurs evolved their limbs into flippers.

“This is pretty close to the beginning of the mosasaur family tree,” says Dallas Museum of Natural History Earth Sciences Curator and SMU Adjunct Professor of Paleontology Anthony R. Fiorillo, Ph.D.

“It is the most complete mosasaur retaining all of its limbs found in North America.”

Mosasaurs, every bit as prolific, fascinating and nearly as big as some dinosaurs, are becoming more popular for paleontologists to study.

5 thoughts on “Dallas, Texas, USA, primitive mosasaur fossil found

  1. Dozens dig for ancient sea creature in North Texas

    08:48 PM CDT on Sunday, July 13, 2008

    By DEBBIE DENMON / WFAA-TV

    GARLAND – Digging for Late Cretaceous fossils in Garland? That’s exactly what more than two dozen volunteers did Sunday while in the hot heat.

    The dig began after a Garland resident discovered a mosasaur near his home along Duck Creek.

    The Dallas paleontological society members worked 400 hours to excavate the bones of the creature.

    While mosasaurs weren’t dinosaurs, they were lepidosaurs, which were reptiles with overlapping scales. The carnivorous sea reptiles swam in an ocean that scientists believe covered Texas millions of years ago.

    “We finally got it to a point to flip the main jacket that contains the skull,” said Rocky Manning, Dallas Paleontological Society.

    “Oh, it’s been interesting” said Charles Amyx, the man who unearthed the Mosasaur bones in January from the river bottom behind his home. “I’ve been taking pictures everyday and built me a path through my yard so people can come down here and see it.”

    The excavation of the creature started in March.

    One volunteer said she traveled six hours to participate in the dig.

    “It’s really very fulfilling because a lot of this wouldn’t be recovered without us,” said Pauline Maullinex. “The museums don’t have the money or the personnel.”

    The coordinated effort unearthed the animal scientists estimate to be at least 40 feet long.

    “This was a particularly nice mosasaur,” Manning said. “It was almost full grown. A full grown mosasaur has a jaw of almost four feet.”

    E-mail ddenmon@wfaa.com

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