Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Unlocks Mosasaur Fossil Mysteries

. August 30, 2010 . 0 Comments

One of the ocean’s most formidable marine predators, the marine mosasaur Platecarpus, lived in the Cretaceous Period some 85 million years ago and was thought to have swum like an eel. That theory is debunked in a new paper published in the journal Public Library of Science. An international team of scientists have reconceived the animal’s morphology, or body plan, based on a spectacular specimen housed at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

The paper was co-authored by a team of four scientists: Johan Lindgren (Lund University, Lund, Sweden), Michael W. Caldwell, Takuya Konishi (University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), and Luis M. Chiappe, Director of the Natural History Museum’s Dinosaur Institute.

Reconstruction of Platecarpus showing crescent-shaped fluke

The mosasaur specimen was discovered in Kansas in 1969, and acquired by the NHM shortly thereafter. It contains four slabs, which make up a virtually complete, 20-foot specimen. Dr. Chiappe spurred a modern preparation of the specimen, and assembled the paper’s research team. “It is one of several exceptional fossils that will be featured in Dinosaur Mysteries,” said Chiappe, curator of the 15,000-squarefoot landmark exhibition that opens at the museum in 2011.

In the meantime, the fossil will be temporarily on display at the museum’s Dino Lab, a working lab located on the second floor of the museum, where paleontologists prepare fossils in full view of the public.

About the Dinosaur Institute
The Dinosaur Institute houses the Natural History Museum’s collection of Mesozoic tetrapods (four-limbed vertebrates), dating from 250 million years ago to 65.5 million years ago. This collection includes fossils of dinosaurs spanning the Mesozoic Era, as well as fossils of other tetrapods (four-legged animals) that lived alongside the dinosaurs, such as flying and marine reptiles, crocodiles, turtles, amphibians, and early mammals. The fossils in the collection have been acquired over nearly a century, and the collection continues to expand rapidly through the Dinosaur Institute’s active field program. The Institute runs expeditions several times a year to collect fossils from Utah, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and right here in California. It also participates in international field programs, most recently in China, Kazakhstan, and Argentina.

Natural History Museum Hours and Admission:
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is located at 900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles. Open daily from 9:30 am to 5 pm; Tickets are $9 for adults, $6.50 for children. For more information, visit the Museum’s website at www.nhm.org or call (213) 763-DINO.

Category: Natural History

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