STL Science Center

STL Science Center

24 November 2016

Ancient Marine Books

Shastasaurus has been featured in a number of books concerning and written about marine reptiles of the Mesozoic. As noted earlier in the week Shastasaurus appears in a limited number of tribute videos as well. A number of popular articles have come and gone, particularly in recent years, pertaining to the diet of Shastasaurus. These articles mention specifically the hypothesis that the toothless snout of Shastasaurus was ideally suited to suction feeding and ingesting cephalopods specifically. However, the mandible and jaw joints of Shastasaurus were not adapted to accommodate the range of motion required for successful suction feeding. Shastasaurus most likely required massive numbers of cephalopods with or without the ability to suction feed given its size. One of the key abilities of Shastasaurus in ingesting massive numbers of animals like this would be to get into a position to be able to eat them. Its large size and hypocercal tail probably made Shastasaurus basically incapable of high speed swimming. However, migrations of smaller taxa or simply larger, slower swimming taxa, may have been on the menu for this large mostly lumbering predator of the Triassic. Clearly it must have been successful at one time or another or it would not have survived long enough to make it into the fossil record. Conversely, Shastasaurus may have swam slowly through large groups of fish, or circled them like large whales sometimes do today to funnel them into an area fit for gulping.

This is highly speculative and not entirely taken from any of the sources discussed on Tuesday; take this conversation on diet with a grain of salt, that is to say. Hypothetical situations are fun to discuss, but definitely be aware that there are scientists that make a living studying Shastasaurus that know more about its diet and the evidence for and against specific hypotheses that have been discussed here today.
©Nikolay Zverko

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