FROM THE EDUCATION DESK
Interesting Facts for September: We observe National Breast Cancer month, National Pizza Month and National Book Fair Month all in October. In October of 1970 PBS started, Apollo launched in October of 1970 and Skylab, the first space station launched in October 1973.
New research suggests they had another super weapon…massive pectoral muscles that allowed them to do a version of the breaststroke which gave them a burst of speed during predatory ambushes. Over the last decade, researchers have been piecing together the evolution of mosasaurs. Studies of these sea monsters shows that the species first went from the land into the water. In the beginning, they only had limited swimming ability. Within about 27 million years, they adapted to life in the sea. Their limbs transformed into powerful paddles and their tails turned into powerful, flexible propulsion devices.
At first researchers thought mosasaurs were “cruisers” using only their tails for long distance swimming. It was noted that many mosasaur fossils found had very large pectoral girdles and that was when anatomists at the University of Southern California decided to take a closer look. They found that the pectoral girdle was likely the site of large muscle attachments and that the limbs were used for the pull down motion used in the human breast stroke. They concluded that mosasaurs had powerful forelimbs that they used for “burst” swimming, probably to catch prey during an ambush. We know that they used their tails for locomotion and now we think that they also used their forelimbs and tails together. The combination of cruising and bursting puts these animals in a unique category. Not many animals are good at both of these together. This combination helped the animals become dominant sea creatures for the final 30 million years of the Cretaceous period before disappearing from the world’s oceans about 65 million years ago, likely the victims of the same asteroid that finished off the dinosaurs.
More details are becoming known about this interesting animal which is related to the modern-day Komodo dragons and other monitor lizards.
One thing is certain: Mosasaurs swam unlike anything else!