|The strange ridges on the teeth indicate a specialised feeding strategy, however its diet remains a mystery. |
Photo Credit: Dr Nick Longrich
Scientists have discovered a new species of mosasaur, a sea-dwelling lizard from the age of the dinosaurs, with strange, ridged teeth unlike those of any known reptile. Along with other recent finds from Africa, it suggests that mosasaurs and other marine reptiles were evolving rapidly up until 66 million years ago, when they were wiped out by an asteroid along with the dinosaurs and around 90% of all species on Earth.
The new species, Stelladens mysterious, comes from the Late Cretaceous of Morocco and was around twice the size of a dolphin.
It had a unique tooth arrangement with blade-like ridges running down the teeth, arranged in a star-shaped pattern, reminiscent of a cross-head screwdriver.
Most mosasaurs had two bladelike, serrated ridges on the front and back of the tooth to help cut prey, however Stelladens had anywhere from four to six of these blades running down the tooth.
“It’s a surprise,” said Dr Nick Longrich from the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, who led the study. “It’s not like any mosasaur, or any reptile, even any vertebrate we’ve seen before.”