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Super Predators Swimming in the Middle of America

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The value of science and museums displaying prehistoric marine life.

Helicoprion: The Swimming Buzzsaw

Helicoprion: The Swimming Buzzsaw

Western Inland Sea: America's Ocean

Western Inland Sea: America's Ocean

Western Inland Sea in America and Marine Predators

During the Cretaceous Period, the continents were on the move, and oceans began to fill in the gaps. The Cretaceous Period followed the Jurassic Period. And one of the oceans filling in a gap was the Western Interior Seaway in the middle of America! It's hard to imagine such a vast ocean covering our state from 145. to 66 million years ago, but it did. And today, we have fossils to prove the existence of some really monstrous marine life. And fortunately, the fossils are housed in many museums throughout the U.S.for us to see in their splendor.

Gradually the ocean disappeared due to the uplifting and mountain building on the western side of North America. Over time fossils would be discovered, giving scientists an eye into the past.


A Monster Helicoprion

A Monster Helicoprion

The Prehistoric Helicoprion.

The Helicoprion was one of the largest and most successful predators during this period. The name means "spiral jaw" in Greek. It survived the great dying period when 70% of land animals and 96% of marine specimens went extinct, but the Helicoprion did finally go extinct. They lived in the oceans in North America, Eastern Europe, Asia, and Australia. Scientists believe it measured 25 feet in length and weighed one thousand pounds.

No complete skeleton has ever been found except for the 'tooth whorl' fossils. The fossils have stymied scientists for years. It seems no one knew exactly where they belonged, and they contained 150 teeth. In 1899 Alexander Karpinsky, a geologist and mineralogist, later president of the Russian Academy of Science. His find was not the first as a partial fossil was found in Western Australia in 1880.

In 1966, paleontologist Svend Erik Bendix-Almgreen discovered a jaw fossil in a phosphate mine near Montpelier, Idaho, which is in Bear Lake County along the Utah border. It was named IMNH 37899, known today as HELICOPRION. Today, Idaho is the capital of the Helicoporion fossils discoveries. This fossil sat in the Idaho Museum of Natural History for decades. Almgreen finally decided CT scans would be beneficial, and he sent the specimen to the University of Texas. After the scan, it was determined it wasn't a shark after all but of the class of ratfish and ghost sharks that branched off from sharks millions of years ago. After the CT scan, a 3-Computer model was generated, and now it was determined that the jaw fit in the lower mouth of the Helicoprion.

Only the 'tooth whorl' was ever found. It remained what exactly the Helicoprion really looked like. This was when Alaska-based artist Ray Troll sketched his impression of his twenty years studying the Helicoprion should be. He spoke with other authorities and made an appearance on Disney Channel's Prehistoric Sharks. Troll authored his book, Cruisin, the Fossil Freeway, along with author Kirk Johnson. He also had a traveling exhibit in 2013 featuring a helicoprion. Troll received the Ocean Ambassador Award in 2014 from the Alaska Sea Life Center.

Tylosaurus

Tylosaurus

Tylosaurus With Prey

Tylosaurus With Prey

Jaws of a Tylosaurus

Jaws of a Tylosaurus

The Predatory Tylosaurus

The huge predatory marine reptile Tylosaurus is related to monitor lizards. They measure 40-46 feet in length and swam some 66 million years ago in the Western Inland Seaway. Now that the ocean no longer exists, fossils continue to be discovered. A giant specimen of a T. Proiger was found in 1911 by C.W. Buker near Wallace, Kansas. So far, it is the largest ever found and is on display at the University of Kansas Museum of Natural History.

In 1918, Charles H. Sternberg found a Tylosaurus with the remains of a plesiosaur in its stomach. This is on display at the Smithsonian. It somehow was overlooked until 2001 when it was rediscovered and described by Michael J. Everhart in 2004.

In 2009, Alan Komrosky found a thirty-four-foot-long specimen in Kansas, and it is on display at the Museum of World Treasures in Wichita, Kansas. How many more fossils are waiting to be discovered.

Comments

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on November 08, 2020:

Thanks for your visit, Alicia. appreciate it.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on November 06, 2020:

I think exploring prehistoric life is fascinating. Thank you for creating this interesting article, Fran.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on November 05, 2020:

Oh, if only it was that easy to write a best seller. I think I could use that flash drive. Neat idea, thanks for the article.

Rosina S Khan on November 05, 2020:

Hi Fran, I have published a new Flash Fiction story article, "The Magic of an Audio File." Please read it and leave your valuable feedback. Here is the link:

https://letterpile.com/creative-writing/The-Magic-...

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on November 02, 2020:

Rosina, thanks for your visit. I hope more fossils are discovered, it will be interesting.

Rosina S Khan on November 02, 2020:

So many fossils representing marine lives millions and millions of years ago have been discovered in recent times. It amazes me to take note of how many more fossils are yet to be discovered. Thanks for sharing this interesting article, Fran.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on November 02, 2020:

Liz, I truly appreciate your visit. I agree the world was so different long ago. Glad I wasn't swimming then.

Liz Westwood from UK on November 02, 2020:

It's amazing to look back in time and see how different the geography of America looked. This is a very interesting and informative article.