Science

Nine-meter-long sea lizard ruled the oceans 66 million years ago, with a huge skull and sharp teeth

According to a paper published in the latest issue of Cretaceous Research, paleontologists have discovered near Casablanca, Morocco, the fossils of a giant sea lizard from the end of the Cretaceous period 66 million years ago, measuring 9 meters in length, with a skull up to 1.4 meters long and huge conical teeth like those of a killer whale, suggesting that sea lizards dominated the oceans when dinosaurs ruled the land.

Nine-meter-long sea lizard ruled the oceans 66 million years ago, with a huge skull and sharp teethNine-meter-long sea lizard ruled the oceans 66 million years ago, with a huge skull and sharp teeth

Worldwide distribution of the giant sea lizard Thalassotitan atrox at the end of the Cretaceous.

The massive marine reptile, named Thalassotitan atrox, is reportedly a distant relative of modern lizards and giant lizards, and can grow up to 12 meters long.

Dr. Nick Longrich, who led the study at the University of Bath in England, said the Thalassotitan is an amazing, fearsome animal whose skull and teeth allow it to devour other large marine creatures.

Nine-meter-long sea lizard ruled the oceans 66 million years ago, with a huge skull and sharp teethNine-meter-long sea lizard ruled the oceans 66 million years ago, with a huge skull and sharp teeth

The fossilized skull of a giant sea lizard unearthed near Casablanca indicates that it was the "top killer" of the sea.

Thalassotitan's advanced hunting abilities are evidenced by newly discovered fossils that show its skull to have been 5 feet (1.4 meters) long. It had a short, wide mouthparts and huge conical teeth like those of an orca, which allowed it to grab and tear apart huge prey.

Nine-meter-long sea lizard ruled the oceans 66 million years ago, with a huge skull and sharp teeth

Large fossil marine creatures excavated near the site of the giant sea lizard fossil have signs of being gnawed by sharp teeth.

As further evidence, many fossils of Thalassotitans show that their teeth are broken and worn down almost to the roots.

This would have been the result of gnawing on the bones of other marine reptiles rather than fragile fish, allowing it to have the same ecological niche as today's orcas and great whites.

Many Thalassotitan fossils also show evidence of facial injuries, possibly in violent combat with other conspecifics.

Wen/Nandu reporter Chen Lin