A bizarre new plioplatecarpine mosasaurid from the Maastrichtian of Morocco

Nicholas R. Longrich, Michael J. Polcyn, Nour Eddine Jalil, Xabier Pereda-Suberbiola, Nathalie Bardet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Upper Maastrichtian of Morocco has produced a remarkably diverse fauna of mosasaurids, the most diverse known for any time or place. As apex predators, Mosasauridae provide a picture of the marine ecosystem just before the end-Cretaceous mass extinction. Here we describe a bizarre new plioplatecarpine mosasaurid, Khinjaria acuta, characterized by enlarged, dagger-like anterior teeth, short, robust jaws, and posterior elongation of the skull. Khinjaria is related to Goronyosaurus nigeriensis from Nigeria and Niger, and Gavialimimus almaghribensis from Morocco. These species form a distinct clade of specialized mosasaurids so far unknown outside of Africa. Mosasaurids show high endemism in the Maastrichtian, with different lineages occurring in different regions, implying that mosasaurid diversity is underestimated because of limited geographic sampling. The large size, robust jaws, akinetic skull, and bladelike teeth of Khinjaria suggest it was an apex predator, but the unusual skull and jaw differ from those of contemporary predators like Hainosaurus, Thalassotitan, and Mosasaurus, suggesting a distinct feeding strategy. Mosasaurids became increasingly specialized in the latest Cretaceous, repeatedly evolving to occupy the apex predator niche, suggesting a diverse marine ecosystem persisted up to the K/Pg boundary. Late Cretaceous marine ecosystems differ from modern marine ecosystems in the high diversity of large predators.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105870
Number of pages12
JournalCretaceous Research
Early online date1 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Mar 2024

Data Availability Statement

No data was used for the research described in the article.


  • Maastrichtian
  • Morocco
  • Mosasauridae
  • Phosphates
  • Plioplatecarpinae
  • Squamata

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Palaeontology


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