Animal of the Week: Big Blue the Mosasaurus
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.
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.
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.