Scientists have discovered the fossil for an enormous sea creature that ruled the oceans 66 million years ago. Named Thalassotitan atrox, this giant creature was a mosasaur (the name given to a group of extinct, large marine reptiles from the Cretaceous period). Its fossilised remains were found in Morocco, lying next to the remains of its last meal.
“At the end of the Cretaceous period, 66 million years ago, sea monsters really existed. While dinosaurs flourished on land, the seas were ruled by the mosasaurs, giant marine reptiles,” said the University of Bath in a press release dated August 24.
The Thalassotitan is a new species whose remains were dug up in Morocco, about an hour outside Casablanca. The formidable apex predator could grow up to 30-feet long. Its head alone measured a staggering 5-feet.
"Thalassotitan was an amazing, terrifying animal," said Dr Nick Longrich, senior lecturer at the University of Bath and lead author of the study announcing the discovery of the fossil, told Newsweek.
"They ate a lot of stuff. Mostly they're probably eating stuff like fish and squid. Some of them have crushing teeth, so probably stuff like clams, sea urchins, crustaceans and ammonites. This one ate other marine reptiles," Longrich said.
Scientists also found possible remains of the sea monster’s victims. “Fossils from the same beds show damage from acids, with teeth and bone eaten away. Fossils with this peculiar damage include large predatory fish, a sea turtle, a half-meter long plesiosaur head, and jaws and skulls of at least three different mosasaur species,” the University of Bath said in its press released, with Longrich noting that evidence of the last meal is circumstantial.
The Thalassotitan was not a dinosaur, but a gigantic sea lizard and a distant relative of modern-day monitor lizards and iguanas.It is believed that the same asteroid impact that wiped out dinosaurs and countless other creatures in the late Cretaceous period also led to the extinction of the Thalassotitan.