Sea Monsters Unearthed

Hillsman S. Jackson, Southern Methodist University
May 30, 2018
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Mosasaur skull
Hillsman S. Jackson, Southern Methodist University

A fossil mosasaur skull excavated from Angola’s costal cliffs for display in “Sea Monsters Unearthed.” This species, Angolasaurus bocagei, is the oldest known mosasaur from the Southern Hemisphere and the earliest native species of mosasaur from Angola. It descended from North American and European species that first arrived along Angola’s coast a little over 88 million years ago.

The mosasaur’s story in Angola’s ancient seas reveals how key geologic and environmental forces contributed to the early establishment and evolution of life in the South Atlantic. As Africa and South America drifted apart and a new ocean basin formed, trade winds blowing along the new Angolan coastline created the conditions for upwelling, an ocean process that drives the circulation of nutrients from the deep ocean to its surface. These nutrients in turn jump-started the food web that attracted the ferocious marine reptile predators featured throughout the exhibition.

Photo: Hillsman S. Jackson, Southern Methodist University.