STL Science Center

STL Science Center

03 April 2013

Locked Vertebrae

Found on a Wikimedia Commons Page
Aside from being the smallest mosasaur, Clidastes has an interesting name. I do not believe I mentioned before that the word mosasaur itself means "Meuse River Lizard," why I did not mention that before I do not know, but Clidastes' equally interesting name means "Locked Vertebrae." Typically when I hear the word locked I assume that there is an element of rigidity to whatever is locked; however, we know from the papers and previous discussion this week that Clidastes was anything but a rigid and immovable animal. In fact, we know that Clidastes was an agile swimmer and quite capable of graceful, perhaps not dolphin-like grace, movement through the water. The locking of the vertebrae actually serves to strengthen that body while allowing for these movements; that essentially means the vertebrae are locked together for stability and strength but still have a range of motion in the horizontal plane that is sufficient enough to allow for the high quality of swimming we expect from the animal. The strengthening of the tail, and entire backbone, also allows for the more intense attachment of muscles to power the swimming mechanism of this fantastic animal.

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