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Dinosaurs and Mosasaurs

We would expect to find dinosaur remains in the Mid-South area. West Tennessee has the same type of late cretaceous deposits as those that have been discovered in Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Fossilized leaves and petrified wood identify this area as having had the semi-tropical climate the dinosaurs liked. However, only fragments of dinosaur remains have been found in West Tennessee and North Mississippi. Surprisingly, these fossils were discovered in sands and clays deposited by the sea. Sometimes dinosaur carcasses were washed out to sea where they sank to the bottom. A few duckbill dinosaur bones from Tennessee and some duckbill and Albertosaurus teeth from Mississippi have been preserved this way. They remind us that dinosaurs roamed the Mid-South area 70 million years ago.

Dilophosaurus

Found in northern Arizona, Dilophosaurus is the earliest big theropod dinosaur in the fossil record. Like other meat-eating dinosaurs, it has a strong tail and back legs, small front legs, a large head and sharp teeth. The double crest on its head is supported by thin ridges of bone. Scientists are unsure if Dilophosaurus was a scavenger or an active predator. 

Our staff recommends the following link on the Dilophosaur.

http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/dilophosaur/intro.html

Tour of dilophosaur narrated by its discoverer.

Mosasaur - a giant marine reptile

Although the mosasaurs were giant reptiles, the were lizards, not dinosaurs. The genus Tylosaurus, to which the Pink Palace’s specimen belongs, was one of several kind of mosasaurs which evolved during the Late Cretaceous, some 85 million years ago. 

 

The name “mosasaur” means “Maas Lizard.” These animals were named for the area of the Netherlands in which the first specimen was discovered. 

 

Tylosaurus was shaped more like a fish than a lizard. It swam like a fish, undulating its slim body and long, flattened tail  and steering with its webbed, paddle-like feet. Like its reptile relatives, however, it had scales on its body and bony plates on its head. Mosasaurs also had to come to the surface of the water to breathe because they had lungs, not gills.

 

Mosasaurs were common worldwide and flourished in the shallow seas which covered what is now the central United States. While our specimen came from the Kansas chalk beds, mosasaur fragments have also been found in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and elsewhere in the Mid-South.

 

Some mosasaurs grew to be longer than 50 feet. Our specimen measures 27 feet, 6 inches. It is also unusual because it contains 95% of the original bone structure.

 

Like the dinosaurs and other giant reptiles, mosasaurs became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period.

The land-dwelling monitor lizards of Africa, Australia and Southeast Asia may be the mosasaur’s closest living relatives. 

 

Judging by its sharp teeth, Tylosaurus was carnivorous. While some kinds of mosasaurs fed on shellfish, Tylosaurus preyed on fish and other marine vertebrates – even other mosasaurs. 

Its lower jaws were hinged just behind the teeth, allowing it to swallow very large chunks of meat. Mosasaurs had a second set of teeth on the roof of the mouth. Because those teeth pointed toward the throat, they were probably of more use in swallowing than chewing.

Mastodon

Both mastodons and mammoths were wide spread during the Pleistocene Epoch. Their bones and teeth are frequently found in the Mid-South. Mastodons lived in open woodlands, often near springs and bogs. Mastodons, mammoths and other large mammals became extinct between 9,500 and 11,500 years ago. Possible explanations include hunting by early humans, disease and changes in climate.

Our staff recommends the following links related to dinosaurs and mosasaurs. 

Mastodons

http://www.museum.state.il.us/exhibits/larson/mammut.html

Mastodons and Mammoths

http://skywalker.cochise.edu/wellerr/students/mammoth-mastodon/mastodon.htm

Paleontology

http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/

http://www.paleoportal.org/

http://www.fossils-facts-and-finds.com/

The Pink Palace Family of Museums occasionally places links to other websites on its own.  This is done as part of our mission to "inspire learning."  It is not an endorsement of the information or viewpoints you will find on the linked websites.

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