Xenodens calminechari a bizarre mosasaurid with shark-like cutting teeth from the upper Maastrichtian of Morocco, North Africa

Welcome to the captivating world of Moroccan fossils

Welcome to the captivating world of Moroccan fossils

Where the whispers of ancient creatures echo through time, inviting you to unravel their secrets. Fossilseum.com proudly presents a remarkable collection that unveils the awe-inspiring wonders of Morocco’s prehistoric landscapes. Each fossil is a treasure, carefully curated and sourced directly from the mesmerizing land itself, offering a glimpse into a world long past.

Immerse yourself in the allure of the mosasaurids

A group of marine reptiles that flourished during the mid-Cretaceous period. These remarkable creatures underwent an extraordinary transformation, adapting to the marine realm with unparalleled specialization. As the Cretaceous era drew to a close, they experienced an explosive diversification, manifesting in an array of body sizes, locomotor styles, and dietary preferences. Within their ranks, you’ll encounter piscivores, apex predators, and durophages, each occupying a unique ecological niche.

Prepare to be astounded by Xenodens calminechari gen. et sp. nov.

Discovered in the upper Maastrichtian phosphates of Morocco, this newfound taxon exhibits dental specializations unlike anything seen in any known reptile. Imagine a dental battery composed of short, laterally compressed, and hooked teeth, forming a saw-like blade. The intricate tooth structure and implantation offer fascinating affinities with the durophagous Carinodens, a mosasaurid known for its crushing teeth. This unique tooth arrangement not only expands the known disparity of mosasaurids but stands as a testament to the remarkable diversity found within the Squamata lineage and even the broader Tetrapoda family.

This novel dentition suggests a previously unknown feeding strategy, likely involving a cutting motion used to carve pieces out of large prey or in scavenging. Envision the prowess of Xenodens, utilizing its specialized dentition to navigate the ancient oceans, leaving its mark on the tapestry of life. Such a remarkable dental adaptation adds yet another layer to the already astonishing disparity and functional diversity of the late Maastrichtian mosasaurids and marine reptiles. It stands as compelling evidence of a diverse marine fauna that thrived just before the fateful K-Pg extinction event reshaped life on Earth.

The allure of Moroccan fossils

The Sidi Chennane phosphate mine, nestled within the Oulad Abdoun Basin of Khouribga Province, Morocco, has yielded an astonishing wealth of fossil treasures. These phosphatic deposits, organized into distinct beds or “couches” for mining purposes, offer a window into the geological history spanning the Cretaceous-Paleocene boundary. With strata ranging from the mid-late Maastrichtian to the early and middle Eocene, these deposits provide a fascinating tapestry of time.

Introducing Xenodens calminechari gen. et sp. nov.

A marvel that captures the imagination. Its genus name, derived from the Greek word for “strange” and the Latin word for “tooth,” perfectly encapsulates its enigmatic allure. The species name, calminechari, translates to “like a saw” in Arabic, a fitting homage to its extraordinary dental configuration.

The holotype, represented by the specimen MHNM.KH.333, showcases the splendor of Xenodens. Its upper jaw, meticulously preserved, reveals the distinctive features that set it apart. In the upper Maastrichtian phosphates of the Sidi Chennane phosphate mines, this unique mosasaurid finds its place in the grand tapestry of life.

Classification and dental morphology

While the dental morphology of Xenodens may appear unconventional, multiple characters firmly establish its classification within the Mosasauridae family. A long, low, triangular maxilla, an elongated premaxilla-maxilla contact, and the implantation of tooth crowns on bony pedicels all contribute to its taxonomic placement. Additionally, the tooth bases forming distinct thecae and the presence of deep replacement pits forming crypts further affirm its affinities with the mosasaurid lineage.

The extraordinary dentition of Xenodens

Xenodens calminechari gen. et sp. nov. exhibits a serrated cutting surface composed of closely packed bladelike teeth, unlike anything seen among mosasaurids or tetrapods at large. This unique dental adaptation shares intriguing similarities with some sharks, suggesting that Xenodens employed its jaws to carve apart large prey items. Regardless of its specific feeding strategy, this extraordinary discovery reinforces the already remarkable diversity and functional range exhibited by the late Maastrichtian mosasaurids and marine reptiles.

We extend our heartfelt appreciation to Mustapha Meharich and Mohammed Ben Sekkou for their invaluable assistance in Morocco, as well as to Charlie Underwood for engaging discussions on shark dentition. We would also like to express our gratitude to Ross Robertson for his exceptional photography and to Andrey Atuchin for the captivating seascape reconstruction. Finally, we extend our thanks to Dmitry Grigoriev (Saint Petersburg, Russia) and an anonymous reviewer for their time and insightful contributions to this research.

Embark on a journey through time and immerse yourself in the wonders of Moroccan fossils. Fossilseum.com awaits, ready to share the captivating stories and scientific significance preserved within each extraordinary relic.


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