Sam's field notes: Marine Reptiles

Aug 18, 2015

Hi everyone, it's your resident dinosaur fan, Sam!

I spent this past week in the 'Zoo Explorers' summer camp and learned so many things! We went for a walk in the Prehistoric Park, and I noticed some really cool reptiles in the lagoon.They go by many names such as Elasmosaurus, Nothosaurus, and Tanystropheus, but my favorite the big and scary Tylosaurus.

Did you notice that I didn’t call any of them dinosaurs? That’s right, they aren’t! I think that these animals are more closely related to modern day lizards and snakes. Dinosaurs are more like crocodiles and birds. Like our penguins, these ancient reptiles really liked the water, and got their food from the ocean. 

I read that the closest living relatives of Tylosaurus and its relatives are actually the monitor lizards and snakes because, for one thing, they both have a really stretchy mouth! I wasn’t sure what that meant, but one of the zoo’s interpreters told me that if we had jaws that could stretch like a snake we’d be able to swallow a basketball!

I don’t think Tylosaurus’ jaws could stretch that much, but I wonder what and how they did eat? I discovered that Komodo dragons are really big eaters, and that they've actually been used as models for how dinosaurs ate. An interpreter at an education station says that you can sometimes find little bits of things like turtles, ammonites, fish, and even other marine reptiles where the tummy of the Tylosaurus would have been. I wonder if they would see hot dogs and ice cream in my tummy if I were a fossil?

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