Marine Reptiles

Maui from the Moana movie as a demiboy Mauisaurus. The guy would be so tickled if he knew there was a marine reptile…indirectly, but still! named after him.

RE: Maui’s gender: Don’t look at me, he said it himself. He’s a demiguy.

For @a-dinosaur-a-day‘s pride month.


Galapagos Marine Iguanas

The marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus), also known as the Galápagos marine iguana, is a species of iguana found only on the Galápagos Islands (Ecuador) that has the ability, unique among modern lizards, to forage in the sea, making it a marine reptile. This iguana feeds almost exclusively on algae and large males dive to find this food source, while females and smaller males feed during low tide in the intertidal zone. They mainly live in colonies on rocky shores where they warm after visiting the relatively cold water or intertidal zone, but can also be seen in marshes, mangrove and beaches.

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Unsolved Paleo Mysteries Month #12 – Muddled Mosasaurs

Numerous groups of reptiles have “returned to the water” and become aquatic over the last three hundred million years, but tracing their direct ancestry can be surprisingly difficult. Highly modified and specialized anatomy, lack of transitional forms, and similar features convergently evolving multiple times can all obscure relationships, making it hard to properly classify them.

We’re only just starting to figure out the true origin of turtles (they’re probably archosauromorphs), and they’re a marine reptile group with living members.

Some of the extinct ones are even more uncertain. For example: mosasaurs. (Represented here by the eponymous Mosasaurus.)

While some semi-aquatic early mosasaurs are known, and they seem to be closely related to aigialosaurs and dolichosaurs, their exact placement within the squamates is a lot less clear. Traditionally they were regarded as the sister group to snakes, but some studies have found them to be closer to monitor lizards instead, and others have even placed them as much more basal scleroglossans. Their classification in phylogenetic analyses is “highly unstable”, changing depending on what other reptile groups are included, so there’s no real current consensus.

(And even if they are most closely related to snakes, that doesn’t necessarily help much – the exact origin and evolution of snakes is still very poorly known, too!)

Here’s a project that never came to fruition, but it was still a fun idea to illustrate.

When I was a kid, I always wondered what type of dinosaurs roamed the San Francisco Bay Area.  I recently found out that dinosaurs never existed in the Bay Area, but what inhabited my hometown were prehistoric marine reptiles, fish and ammonite.  For the most part, SF was submerged thousands of feet underwater during the Mesozoic.

Land of Scales: Shore Iguanadon

“Shore Iguanadon are the first encounters of many of those stranded on this island, other than the hungry marine reptiles in the water. Around the size of a large cow, these often lazy reptiles rarely move, chewing on seaweed and coral they’ve aquired in the water. Their time spent digesting makes them noisy and smelly, "burping” every so often in a awful bellow.

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When Charles Darwin was off observing wildlife in the Galápagos Islands, he wasn’t just looking at finches. In fact, one of the most striking creatures that Darwin found was the Marine Iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus). To Darwin, this species was strikingly…stupid.

Marine Iguanas are necessarily dumb, but when Darwin and his fellow shipmates reached the Galápagos, the iguana species was so far removed from human contact that it didn’t consider them a threat. One of my favorite Darwin anecdotes is about the famed naturalist repeatedly throwing a single iguana into the ocean, only to have it swim right back to rest in the same place.

These are huge, huge lizards, reaching over a meter in length, so the idea of one being tossed into the sea is a bit of a strange one. It really does make one wonder what other animal species might be like without the constant threat of predation or disturbance.

Photo credit: Ash Boudrie

Me in response to palaeofails
  • Someone: Feathers make dinosaurs look stupid.
  • Me: Go run around a mockingbird's nest a couple times and tell me how stupid feathers look then.
  • Someone: *says the words "flying dinosaurs"*
  • Me: You better be talking about birds...
  • Someone: *says the words "swimming dinosaurs"*
  • Me: You better be talking about penguins.
  • Someone: Muh Jurassic Park/World!
  • Me: I love JP/W too, dude. Doesn't change the fact that it's inaccurate.
  • Someone: Raptors can have feathers, fine. I still won't accept it on T. rex/Spinosaurus/Giganotosaurus. Besides they're too big!
  • Me: Science doesn't care what you think. Also, Yutyrannus, Deinocheirus and Therizinosaurus. All massive, all feathered.
  • Someone: B-But not ALL dinosaurs had feathers!
  • Me: But most did.
  • Someone: Lol, we've never seen a real dinosaur before! We can make up whatever we want and it's still accurate!
  • Me: Lol, someone clearly doesn't know how Paleontology works!
  • Someone: Dinosaurs can't look like birds! Birds aren't scary and don't kill people!
  • Me: Ostriches can disembowel people with just one kick. Swans have been known to drown people. Geese bite people in the Achilles' tendon. Don't mess with birds.
  • Someone: *says the word "pteradon"
  • Me: That's not a real word. You mean "Pteranodon".
  • Someone: Dinosaurs just aren't cool anymore because feathers.
  • Me: *chucks a swan at them*

Land of Scales : Ruptorsaurus


“The cause of nearly all strandings on this island, the largest Ruptorsaurs swim around the shore for prey of all sorts, attacking nearly anything they spot in the water, even smaller members of their kind. They come at a pinnacle size comparable to that of an orca whale, any larger and they risk death. Few reach that size due to how aggressive the species is towards itself, along with living in such a hostile ecosystem. Only the truly tenacious Ruptorsaurs earn the right to be so massive.

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