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A new species of ancient marine reptile, with a long, narrow snout and interlocking teeth to capture fast-moving prey, was identified in fossils of what is now Morocco.
Gavialimimus almaghribensis, a new type of mosasaur, was cataloged and named by an international research team led by master’s student Catie Strong from the University of Alberta.
More than a dozen types of mosasaurs, which can reach 17 meters in length and look like a neglected Komodo dragon, ruled the marine environment in what is now Morocco in the late Upper Cretaceous period, 72 to 66 million years ago. years.
What sets Strong’s version apart, however, is that it features a long, narrow snout and interlocking teeth, similar to crocodilian gharials, relatives of crocodiles and alligators.
Strong said this discovery adds a layer of clarity to a diverse picture seemingly cluttered with mega-predators vying for food, space and resources. “Its long snout reflects that this mosasaur likely adapted to a specific form of predation, or niche partitioning, within this larger ecosystem.”
Strong explained that there is evidence that each species of the giant marine lizard shows adaptations for different prey or predation styles. “For some species, these adaptations can be very prominent, such as the extremely long snout and interlocking teeth in Gavialimimus, which we propose as an aid in catching fast-moving prey,” he said in a statement.
The G. almaghribensis remains included a one meter long skull and some isolated bones. Nothing explained the cause of the death of the specimen, which was discovered in a phosphate mine in Morocco that is rich in fossils.
“Morocco is an incredibly good place to find fossils, especially in these phosphate mines,” Strong said. “Those phosphates themselves reflect sediments that would have been deposited in marine environments, so there are a lot of mosasaurs there.”