by Dawn Fuller
Photos by Takuya Konishi
Dec. 7, 2015
An international research partnership is revealing the first mosasaur fossil of its kind to be discovered in Japan. Not only does the 72-million-year-old marine reptile fossil fill a biogeographical gap between the Middle East and the eastern Pacific, but also it holds new revelations because of its superior preservation.
This unique swimming lizard, now believed to have hunted on glowing fish and squids at night, is detailed in an article led by Takuya Konishi, a University of Cincinnati assistant professor of biological sciences. The article is published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, a publication of the Natural History Museum in London.
The fossil marine reptile, Phosphorosaurus ponpetelegans (a phosphorus lizard from an elegant creek), existed during the Late Cretaceous Period just before the last of the dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops. Compared with some of their mosasaur cousins that could grow as large as 40 feet, this species is relatively small, about 3 meters, or 10 feet long. This unique discovery in a creek in the town of Mukawa in northern Japan reveals that they were able to colonize throughout the northern hemisphere.