|Alaska's own Gunakadeit joseeae by the amazing Gabriel Ugueto, or @SerpenIllus on the Twitters.|
A very long time ago, I posted an essay about one of my favorite groups of Triassic marine reptiles: thalattosaurs. These lizard-shaped swimmers, while generally similar in body form, differ from one another quite strongly in terms of feeding adaptations. While Anshunsaurus and Askeptosaurus may seem, to our modern eyes, rather vanilla in their clearly faunivorous dentition, others strain credulity. Xinpusaurus, for example, possesses a bizarre notched upper jaw and, in some specimens, an elongate premaxillary spear which overshoots the the lower jaw by an impressive degree, calling to mind swordfish and swordfish-snouted ichthyosaurs. Thalattosaurus and its “claraziid” brethren have reduced, shell-crushing dentition and snouts which curve downward—Hescheleria takes this trend to a puzzling extreme. Thalattosaurs also occupied a wide range of body lengths (1-5 meters). While some were more terrestrially capable than others, the group never seemed to stray far from the nearshore niche.