A frightening marine reptile that lived in Morocco about 66 million years ago during the Maastrichtian Period had extremely deadly shark-like teeth that could saw a fish in half with just one bite.
The extinct mosasaur species has been named Xenodens Calminechari (“Xenodens” means “strange tooth” in Greek, while “Calminechari” translates to “like a saw” in Arabic). The remains were unearthed in the Ouled Abdoun phosphate basin which is located to the west of the Middle Atlas mountains by an international team of researchers from Morocco, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
The paleontologists described the extinct species’ teeth as “unlike those of any known reptile”. According to their paper, “Teeth form a unique dental battery in which short, laterally compressed and hooked teeth formed a saw-like blade,” adding, “The specialized dentition implies a previously-unknown feeding strategy, likely involving a cutting motion used to carve pieces out of large prey, or in scavenging.”
Dr. Nour-Eddine Jalil from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris and Universite Cadi Ayyad in Marrakech explained this further, “A mosasaur with shark teeth is a novel adaptation of mosasaurs so surprising that it looked like a fantastic creature out of an artist’s imagination.” “Xenodens calminechari is further evidence of the extraordinary paleobiodiversity of the Phosphate Sea.”
In fact, even though the Xenodens Calminechari was only about the size of a small porpoise, the analysis of its teeth suggest that it could have easily captured prey much bigger than it was.
As for the area in which the remains were found, Dr. Nick Longrich, who is a Senior Lecturer at the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath and the lead author of the study, explained how dangerous the waters were during that time, “66 million years ago, the coasts of Africa were the most dangerous seas in the world.” “Predator diversity there was unlike anything seen anywhere else on the planet.”
He went on to say, “A huge diversity of mosasaurs lived here. Some were giant, deep-diving predators like modern sperm whales, others with huge teeth and growing up to ten meters long, were top predators like orcas, still others ate shellfish like modern sea otters – and then there was the strange little Xenodens.” “The new mosasaur adds another dangerous predator to the mix.” He added that the Xenodens Calminechari co-existed with sabre-toothed fish, giant sea turtles, and long-necked plesiosaurs. The study was published in the journal Cretaceous Research where it can be read in full.
A picture of the bones can be seen here as well as an image of what the Xenodens Calminechari would have looked like 66 million years ago.