Kaikaifilu, a new large mosasaur from Antarctica

A team of Chilean scientists led by Rodrigo A. Otero described a new mosasaur from the end of the Cretaceous. The new animal was discovered in the strata exposed on the Seymour Island, Antarctica, and named Kaikaifilu hervei.

When fully grown, Kaikaifilu hervei must have been a true giant. Its skull was estimated to be some 1.1 to 1.2 meters (3.6 to 3.9 feet) long, indicating that the animal possibly reached around 10 meters (33 feet) in length.

The study suggests that Kaikaifilu was closely related to Taniwhasaurus, within the mosasaurid clade Tylosaurinae. However, given that differing hypotheses of tylosaurine interrelationships exist, such position on the mosasaur tree should be considered with caution.

Except for its considerable body size, the most interesting feature of Kaikaifilu is the morphology of its teeth. Unlike in the vast majority of its relatives, the dentition of K. hervei is markedly heterodont. It means that the mosasaur had more than one types of teeth. In fact, the authors recognized four different tooth types in Kaikaifilu, differing in size, shape, and the ornamentation of their surface.

The newly described tylosaurine adds to our understanding of the mosasaur fauna from the final phase of the Late Cretaceous, a period shortly before the group went extinct.

Featured image by Dmitry Bogdanov. CC BY 3.0.

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