With 1.2-meter jaws, this giant marine reptile that lived between 79 and 81 million years ago was called Gnathomortis stadtmani.
A new study from the University of Texas at Austin identified a new species of mosasaur.
The animal’s bones, discovered in 1975 in the US state of Colorado, were analyzed by paleontologist Joshua Lively and the results were published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
In 1999, the specimen was erroneously registered as belonging to the genus Prognathodon.
However, new analyzes have shown that the fossil actually represents a new genus, Gnathomortis, which marks the evolutionary transition from older to newer mosasaurs.
This bone exhibits a suite of characteristics that are transitional from earlier mosasaurs, like Clidastes, and later mosasaurs, like Prognathodon.
We now know Gnathomortis swam in the seas of Colorado between 79 and 81 million years ago, or at least 3.5 million years before any species of Prognathodon.Lively said.
The main characteristic of this reptile is its jaw, which has a large depression on its external surface, similar to that observed in modern lizards.
It is an indication of strong muscles that equip the marine reptile with a formidable biteforce.
The new name is derived from Greek and Latin words for ‘jaws of death’. It was inspired by the incredibly large jaws of this specimen, which measure four feet (1.2 meters) in length.Lively explained.