Xenodens calminechari gen. et sp. nov., a bizarre mosasaurid (Mosasauridae, Squamata) with shark-like cutting teeth from the upper Maastrichtian of Morocco, North Africa

Nicholas R. Longrich, Nathalie Bardet, Anne S. Schulp, Nour Eddine Jalil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The mosasaurids (Mosasauridae) were a group of lizards that became highly specialized for marine life in the mid-Cretaceous. By the end of the Cretaceous, they had undergone an adaptive radiation, and showed a wide range of body sizes, locomotor styles, and diets. Their ranks included piscivores, apex predators, and durophages. Here, we report a new taxon, Xenodens calminechari gen. et sp. nov., from the upper Maastrichtian phosphates of Morocco, with dental specializations unlike those of any known reptile. Teeth form a unique dental battery in which short, laterally compressed and hooked teeth formed a saw-like blade. Unique features of tooth structure and implantation suggest affinities with the durophagous Carinodens. The tooth arrangement seen in Xenodens not only expands known disparity of mosasaurids, but is unique among Squamata, or even Tetrapoda. The specialized dentition implies a previously unknown feeding strategy, likely involving a cutting motion used to carve pieces out of large prey, or in scavenging. This novel dental specialization adds to the already considerable disparity and functional diversity of the late Maastrichtian mosasaurids and marine reptiles. This provides further evidence for a diverse marine fauna just prior to the K-Pg extinction.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104764
JournalCretaceous Research
Early online date16 Jan 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Jan 2021


  • Africa
  • Cretaceous
  • Maastrichtian
  • Mosasauridae
  • Squamata

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Palaeontology

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