Eighty million years ago, prehistoric reptiles roamed underwater in what is now the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.
One such DFW native of the late Cretaceous period was unearthed roughly 80 miles northeast of Dallas and recently displayed at the Perot Museum.
“What was found out there was something called a mosasaur— in this case, about a 30-foot-long marine lizard that swam through our area around 80 million years ago,” Ron Tykoski, director and curator of paleontology at the Perot Museum, told Fox 4 News.
A mosasaur is a large marine reptile that lived in the late Cretaceous. It had a long, flattened tail and big teeth; it is an evolutionary ancestor of present-day monitor lizards. The mosasaur fossils were found during a three-week dig on the North Sulfur River in Fannin County.
According to Tykoski, mosasaur fossils are not the rarest dinosaur fossils found in the DFW area. In fact, this is the Perot museum’s second mosasaur.
“But this is a new one, and it adds to the count of the number of these specimens that we have in our area. And everything that we find— every new fossil, the piece of the fossil … tells us a little bit more about the life and times and the death of these animals,” said Tykoski.
Tykoski described the prehistoric landscape where the mosasaur fossils were unearthed as a tropical ocean, hundreds of feet deep, filled with fish, reptiles, clams, oysters, and other sea life that kept mosasaurs well fed.
While on the dig, the crew pulled out large pieces of the mosasaur’s fossilized skeleton, including most of its skull. Some of the pieces weighed up to 100 pounds.
“We’re going to try to go on back and see what else we can find that might still be buried there after things cool down just a bit,” Tykoski said.
The new exhibit showcasing the mosasaur can be seen daily Monday-Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and on Sundays from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.