Pelagic neonatal fossils support viviparity and precocial life history of Cretaceous mosasaurs

Daniel J Field, Aaron LeBlanc, Adrienne Gau, Adam D Behlke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Mosasaurs were large marine squamates that inhabited all of the world's oceans during the Late Cretaceous. Their success as apex predators has been attributed to their rapid acquisition of aquatic adaptations, which allowed them to become fully pelagic. However, little is known about the breeding biology of derived, flipper-bearing mosasaurs, as the record of neonatal mosasaur fossils is extremely sparse. Here, we report on the fragmentary cranial remains of two neonatal mosasaurs from the Niobrara Formation, referred to Clidastes sp. Comparison with other preliminary reports of neonatal mosasaurs reveals that these specimens are among the smallest individuals ever found and certainly represent the smallest known Clidastes specimens. The recovery of these extremely young specimens from a pelagic setting indicates that even neonatal mosasaurs occupied open oceanic habitats and were likely born in this setting. These data shed new light on the ecology of neonatal mosasaurs and illustrate the degree to which size-related taphonomic and collection biases have influenced our understanding of the early life history of these iconic marine reptiles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-407
Number of pages7
JournalPalaeontology
Volume58
Issue number3
Early online date21 Apr 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2015

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