Mysteries About 85-Million-Year-Old Sea Monster Unlocked at Natural History Museum

Platecarpus

Fossil Now Destined for New Museum Exhibition, Dinosaur Mysteries, Opening Summer of 2011

One of the ocean’s most formidable marine predators, the marine mosasaur Platecarpus, lived in the Cretaceous Period some 85 million years ago and was thought to have swum like an eel. That theory is debunked in a new paper published today in the journal Public Library of Science. An international team of scientists have reconceived the animal’s morphology, or body plan, based on a spectacular specimen housed at the Natural History Museum (NHM) of Los Angeles County.

The mosasaur specimen was discovered in Kansas in 1969, and acquired by the NHM shortly thereafter. It contains four slabs, which make up a virtually complete, 20-foot specimen. Dr. Luis M. Chiappe, Director of the NHM’s Dinosaur Institute, spurred a modern preparation of the specimen, and assembled the paper’s research team. “It is one of several exceptional fossils that will be featured in Dinosaur Mysteries,” said Chiappe, curator of the 15,000-squarefoot landmark exhibition that opens at the museum in 2011.

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