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Anatomy and Functional Morphology of the Largest Marine Reptile Known, Mosasaurus hoffmanni (Mosasauridae, Reptilia) from the Upper Cretaceous, Upper Maastrichtian of the Netherlands

Theagarten Lingham-Soliar

Abstract

Mosasaurus hoffmanni, one of the latest known mosasaurs, comes from the Upper Maastrichtian, Upper Cretaceous Chalk of The Netherlands. Although the first specimen was discovered over 200 years ago, it is here fully described for the first time to provide detailed insights into its anatomy, functional morphology and evolution. Many characters of the skull show that M. hoffmanni was among the most advanced mosasaurs. The skull is robustly constructed and is the least kinetic in the Mosasauridae and, with a tightly assembled palatal complex, provided greater cranial stability in this large-headed mosasaur. The cranial musculature is highly modified. The four-bar linkage system of lizards and early mosasaurs is non-functional in M. hoffmanni. The elements of the lower jaw are also more tightly united than in other mosasaurs. Tooth crowns are divided into several distinct, unique cutting surfaces or prisms. A functional analysis of the marginal teeth shows that they are particularly adapted to powerful bite forces although pterygoidal teeth are small and reduced in importance in ratchet feeding. Moderately large orbits and poorly developed olfactory organs suggest that Mosasaurus hoffmanni was a surface-swimming animal. A relatively lower level of binocular vision than in some other mosasaurs may indicate a somewhat uncomplicated habitat. Geological and palaeontological evidence indicates that M. hoffmanni lived in fairly deep nearshore waters of 40-50 m depth, with changing temperatures and rich vertebrate and invertebrate life. Several severely broken and healed mandibles suggest either a violent lifestyle in predation or in fighting.

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