western interior

Roman Red Jasper Gemstone Depicting Mēn, 2nd-3rd Century AD

Mēn was a lunar god worshipped in the western interior parts of Anatolia. He is attested in various localised variants, such as Mēn Askaenos in Antioch in Pisidia, or Mēn Pharnakou at Ameria in Pontus.

Mēn is often found in association with Persianate elements, especially with the goddess Anahita. Lunar symbolism dominates his iconography. The god is usually shown with the horns of a crescent emerging from behind his shoulders, and he is described as the god presiding over the (lunar) months. Strabo describes Mēn as a local god of the Phrygians. Mēn may be influenced by the (feminine) Zoroastrian lunar divinity Mah, but his male sex is apparently due to the Mesopotamian moon god Sin.

Animal of the Week: Big Blue the Mosasaurus


Mosasaurus hoffmanni*


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.

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.

I was surprised to see that Hesperornis could be almost as big as the average human, wich also puts it around the same size as a female Pteranodon (minus the latter’s wingspan). Following recent research on pterosaurian competence underwater, here’s a female Pteranodon being harassed by two much more agile Hesperornis into giving up on her fish.


The top image is a picture of a cross-bedding formation. The rocks in the cliff have horizontal layers that were formed in a flowing fluid.

The top picture is in Zion National Park, Utah. A long time ago, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and the sea levels were much higher, the entire center of North America was underwater. The Western Interior Seaway was where sea monsters of incredible size and ferocity lurked beneath the waters.

Paleontologists still find new dinosaur fossils in the Western Interior Seaway all the time.

The bottom image is also of cross-bedding. On Mars.

A few years ago we were searching for liquid water on Mars. Now we have geological proof that Mars was once a water world, rivers flowed across its surface.

Perhaps it’s time we sent some paleontologists to dig for fossils?

(Image credit: Rygel, M.C. and NASA respectively)

Hagryphus giganteus

By Ashley Patch on @apatchsketches

Name: Hagryphus giganteus 

Name Meaning: Ha’s griffin

First Described: 2005

Described By: Zanno & Sampson

ClassificationDinosauria, Saurischia, Eusaurischia, Theropoda, Neotheropoda, Averostra, Tetanurae, Orionides, Avetheropoda, Coelurosauria, Tyrannoraptora, Maniraptoriformes, Maniraptora, Pennaraptora, Oviraptorosauria, Caenagnathoidea, Caenagnathidae

Hagryphus was another oviraptorosaur from the Kaiparowits Formation in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. It lived in the Campanian age of the Late Cretaceous, about 75.95 million years ago. It is only known from scattered remains but it was a particularly large oviraptorosaur, about 3 meters long. It lived near the Western Interior Seaway, in an floodplain with large channels and wetland peat swamps, ponds and lakes, and boarderd around by highands. It lived in a wet and humid climate alongside many other types of dinosaurs: dromaeosaurids, Talos, Ornithomimus, Albertosaurus, Teratophoneus, ankylosaurids, Parasaurolophus, Gryposaurus, Utahceratops, Nasutoceratops, and Kosmoceratops. 



Shout out goes to virtualdeveloper!