STL Science Center

STL Science Center

15 February 2013

The Mighty Tyler... uhh, Tylosaurus!

Tylosaurus proriger was, and still is, an amazing reptile of the ancient oceans of the world. Older depictions of Tylosaurus, which we will examine tomorrow, were quite snakelike in their appearance but since that the first half of last century they have become slightly less streamlined and bulky. In essence, Tylosaurus has been given the equivalent of lifetime of body building exercises in its newer form. The fossil evidence supports a bulky Tylosaurus, an animal capable of slow (modern trends concerning marine reptiles all seem to be much slower than they used to be portrayed) but powerful swimming, with enormous jaws capable of crunching down on sharks and absolutely destroying their cartilaginous bodies.

Six species of Tylosaurus are now recognized and have been found throughout the interior of North America, as Tylosaurus was the penultimate genus of mosasaur evolution and an apex predator that dominated the later Cretaceous of the Western Interior Seaway. At more than 45 feet from tail to nose, it was an enormous apex predator, longer than a school bus, and possessed a very distinct premaxilla; the name Tylosaurus refers to the protuberance of the premaxilla which was very long in proportion to the overall skull. The effect is a very long predator with a great deal of power and a very large mouth. The only negative aspect of Tylosaurus, other than sheer size, is that it was an air breathing reptile related, most closely, to extant (living) monitor lizards such as the Komodo Dragon (and my favorite monitor the Nile Monitor) and snakes. There is a wealth of information to share on Tylosaurus, and this will, therefore, be a very full week.

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