marine reptile

Animal of the Week: Big Blue the Mosasaurus

Species

Mosasaurus hoffmanni*

Description

Mosasaurs are an infamous group of marine lizards. Thought to be closely related to snakes and monitor lizards, mosasaurs are long, streamlined, and well-adapted for an aquatic existence, with paddle-shaped limbs and fluked tails. Mosasaurus is the biggest of the lot; some fossil specimens can reach an excess of 50 feet! Big Blue is currently 30 feet - which is still a good size. Mosasaurs are active warm-blooded predators, known to prey on fish and other marine reptiles. As well as the many conical teeth that line the dental margins of the mouth, they have a second row of teeth on the palate, useful for dragging prey further into the throat. Mosasaurus itself is especially robust. Discovered in 1764, it’s become among the most infamous marine reptiles, mostly due to being so big.

Location

Take the stairs down from the aquarium’s Western Interior Seaway hall to the viewing room to see the Trench of the Mosasaur. Gaze into the massive sea pen we’ve built for her, suitable for an animal of her size. On weekday mornings, you can hop on a boat and watch us feed her deep in the sea pen.

Fun Facts

Mosasaurs have a good sense of hearing, and especially tune into repetitive low-frequency sounds (like the sounds of splashing prey). We found that hard rock music is quite effective at drawing her to the boat for feeding, better than the scent of chum even! Recommend songs for Big Blue’s Spotify playlist in our Ask box. We’re always looking to keep her interested in the latest in hard rock fads!

Personality & History

Big Blue is our second mosasaur ever produced by our facility’s geneticists. She bears genome version 1.0, as version 0.9′s mosasaur had passed during artificial gestation. The successful birth of a large marine predator brought an extensive set of architectural and procedural development for our aquarium. She was at first raised in a tank in the Western Interior Seaway hall, part of which is now occupied by our Eonatator. Knowing that she’d outgrow the facility, consultants from the now-defunct Free Willy-Keiko Foundation were flown in to oversee her care as a juvenile and the construction of a much bigger abode.

At 5m, we introduced her into her permanent home: a custom-built sea pen with hydrophone deterrents to dissuade her from venturing close to the thick mesh walls. She’s acclimated quite well, giving us hope for when our megatooth sharks graduate to a full sea pen.

Big Blue is quite inquisitive, often displaying interest in visitors when she swings by the underwater viewing window. If she bumps a viewing boat, consider it a friendly nudge. She has yet to attack a human-navigated vessel, preferring big smelly hunks of meat over cold hard metal - but the boats have a scent-based repellent as well as a number of trade-secret deterrents to stymie her curiosity.

She is not without her own set of challenges that the Huxley keepers & aquarists must keep careful attention to! Big Blue is prone to an undescribed genus of Australian marine parasite (similar to sea lice, our taxonomists have found) that cause her superficial injuries to the skin and tongue. After calling her into a shallow, protected medical pool, a specialized dive team descend and carefully remove any “mosasaur lice” found from our custom bio-scanners. The dedicated 8-person team have earned her affection. Er. As much as a mosasaur can display affection, rather. Toleration might be a better word for it.

We promise it’s nothing to worry about! Our vets are working on a topical remedy as well as the possibility of introducing a larger stock of live fish into the pen to combat the population of these little buggers.

This large male Green sea turtle came into the reef for a much needed clean. I took a couple photos and then just sat with it for ten minutes as it got cleaned. It must have been at sea for a long time to be this dirty, or maybe it keeps getting creeped out by people staring at him every time he tries to get cleaned. It was such an old turtle, I cried I was so happy to share a moment with such an amazing creature. Currently listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red list. 

The marine iguana is an iguana found only in the Galapagos Islands that has the unique ability to forage in the sea, making it a marine reptile.

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A Turtle’s Eye View from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institue

Leatherback sea turtles are one of the ocean’s most mysterious creatures. These endangered turtles travel thousands of miles each year, from the tropics to cool northern waters to feed on jellyfish. Yet despite their enormous size and worldwide distribution, we know little about their day-to-day lives in the ocean, including where, when, and how they feed. Studying these enigmatic turtles at sea is not easy, because they spend most of their time underwater. The technology to follow and image them in open water has not been available—until now.

Source: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Teraterpeton, an unusual archosauromorph from the Late Triassic of Nova Scotia, Canada (~235-221 mya). Probably around 1m long (3′3″), it was a member of the trilophosaurs, a group of lizard-like archosauromorphs with toothless beaks at the front of their jaws and chisel-like cheek teeth at the back.

It had a very long, thin, rather bird-like snout, with a huge nasal opening, and a euryapsid-type skull with the lower temporal fenestra closed off – a condition seen in some marine reptiles like ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs, but unique among all its close relatives.

Its forelimbs also had deep narrow blade-like claws, and the rest of its body is only known from fragmentary remains. It was clearly adapted for some sort of highly specialized niche in its ecosystem, but we just don’t yet know what that niche actually was.

Maybe one day we’ll find more complete fossils of this odd animal and get some answers… or even more surprises.

I tried my best to save the colours in this photo, but I am no photoshop pro.

But either way, this green sea turtle is still beautiful.

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Jurassic World Hasbro Mosasaurus Vs. Submarine Unboxing

The only other figure from the Jurassic World Hasbro line that I really like. The submarine is whatever, but the Mosasaur is super neat!