After five years of research, Dr. Takuya Konishi of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology and colleague Dr. Michael Caldwell from the University of Alberta concluded that the mosasaurs they were studying – a group of large marine lizards that dominated the waters 90 - 65 million years ago – conformed to none of the previously known kinds. Instead, they determined these mosasaurs belonged to an entirely new genus.
Its name, Latoplatecarpus willistoni, was derived from “lato”, Latin for “broad” to indicate the anteriorly widely separated nature of the aforementioned processes, and “willistoni”, in honour of an American palaeontologist Samuel W. Williston, whose work on mosasaurs over a century ago founded the basis for the way researchers classify these marine reptiles today.
Currently, there are over sixty species of mosasaurs known. This new discovery will add to the growing diversity of this uniquely aquatic group of lizards, and will likely help researchers understand the mechanisms behind the evolutionary and ecological success of mosasaurs. This is the first time since 2005 that a new genus has been established in mosasaurs worldwide.
The paper was published on July 12 in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.