„Dino” Detective Techniques Reveal Mosasaur Dining Secrets

Paleontologists used 3D scanning to examine wear marks on mosasaur teeth, finding evidence of selective feeding habits. The research also explains dietary differences between species, with some mosasaurs preferring shellfish while others prey on scaled fish.

Researchers from Utrecht University and the Natural History Museum Maastricht traced the mosasaur’s food preferences. species By examining signs of tooth wear using 3D scanning techniques. This study improves understanding Cretaceous Time biodiversity and the importance of Maastrichtian limestone deposits in archaeology.

The cradle of paleontology – the study of fossil remains of animals and plants – lies in the Maastricht Limestone. Mosasaurus Invented in 1766. The Dutch-Belgian border region around the capital of Limburg is one of the best-studied areas in the world involving Cretaceous rocks, which ended abruptly 66 million years ago.

New data can now add to all previous knowledge: Maastricht mosasaurs became very selective in food selection. This is the conclusion of researchers from Utrecht University and the Natural History Museum Maastricht. Together with English colleagues from the University of Leicester, they were the first in the world to study wear marks on mosasaur teeth.

Femke holwerta mosasaur tooth

Femke Holwerda tested with a cast of one of the teeth. The gold coating provides excellent clarity. Credit: University of Utrecht

Mosasaur dietary studies

„We were interested in whether the different types of mosasaurs around Maastricht really lead each other in their food choices, or whether this is not a problem,” explains paleontologist Dr. Femke Holwerda from Utrecht University’s Faculty of Geosciences. As there was a lack of data on the stomach contents of Maastricht monitor lizards, the researchers looked at small scratches on the teeth of these animals from southern Limburg (Netherlands) and Eben-Imall (province of Liege, Belgium).

Seafood feast

„Different mosasaur species exhibit differences in diet. We observed these differences mainly between the smaller species – by mosasaur standards – about three to seven meters in overall size and the larger ones, eight to fifteen meters in length. But there were some differences between the larger species.

Prognathon In particular, with its large conical teeth, its diet appears to include a surprising amount of shellfish, so it obviously loves its seafood buffet. another species, Plioplatocarpus, short pointed teeth, showed a striking signs of wear. Perhaps this species also prefers fish with strongly scaled bodies.

Analysis of Mosasaurus teeth

Analysis of gold-plated mosers teeth. Credit: University of Leicester

Innovative research techniques

The researchers first made teeth out of silicone rubber and placed them in a 3D scanner. „This technique was already used on dinosaurs, but we were the first to see the teeth of mosasaurs,” explains fellow paleontologist Anne Schulpe, who is affiliated with the University of Utrecht.

Understanding ecological diversity

Through this research, some of the missing pieces of the puzzle of the Late Cretaceous world, which have long been hidden, have been discovered. „We want to better understand diversity,” says Schulpe. „That made it easier for us because the animals studied were all from the same rocks, and therefore the same time period. So we’re not just describing one species, we’re looking at the ecosystem as a whole.

Excavation of Mosasaurus Lars

Excavation of Mosasaurus „Lars” at the former ENCI quarry near Maastricht. Credit: Natural History Museum Maastricht

Unique limestone deposits

The limestone deposits around Maastricht are a gold mine for paleontologists. Schulpe: „The habitats of mosasaurs are not preserved here anywhere else in the world. You can find them in very soft limestone, so the wear and tear of the teeth from other causes can be avoided.

The role of amateur paleontologists

Of course, such a large number of possible discoveries are of great interest to amateur paleontologists. „There’s nothing wrong with that,” insists Jan Jacht, curator of the Natural History Museum Maastricht. „Amateur means 'enthusiast’. Thanks to 250 years of intensive research by these enthusiasts, we have learned a lot about mosasaurs and other extinct life forms. A museum like ours benefits greatly. It also helps that this kind of amateur science is encouraged in the Netherlands: it is allowed by law. Like everywhere else.” No” he said.

Note: Femke M. Holwerda, Jordan Bestwick, Mark A. Burnell, John Wm. Jacht and Anne S. „Three-Dimensional Tooth Microwear Type-Maastrichtian Mosasaur Teeth (Reptilia, Scumata)” by Schulb et al.; Scientific reports.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-42369-7

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