If nothing else, this has been a good year for sea monsters. With the exception of the debunked Loch Ness monster that proved to be almost certainly just seals, scientist have made giant strides in their understanding of giant sea creatures.
Now there’s a new kid on the block, and he’s around the height of a five-story building, Live Science reports.
The sea beast, which resembles something like the monstrous baby of a wolf eel and a blue whale, is called a mosasaur. Living around 66 million years ago in the Cretaceous age, the mosasaur was a top predator. It wasn’t a dinosaur, but rather a relative of the lizards that live on the planet today. It devoured anything it could clinch its toothy jaws on, mostly filter-feeding marine reptiles.
Even though they were portrayed as larger-than-life in "Jurassic World," mosasaurs were among the largest predators prowling the prehistoric oceans.
Scientists have found mosasaurs before, but this new fossil discovered in Antarctica is significantly different from previous specimens. So scientists designated the new find an entirely new genus and species. They named it Kaikaifilu hervei after a sea serpent of the legends of the Mapuche, a native group of Chile and Argentina.
This fossil of Kaikaifilu measures in at around 10 meters long, making it the largest predator found on the Antarctic continent. The prior record-holder was Taniwhasaurus antarcticus, another kind of mosasaur that had the tail of a leopard shark but the face of, well, a sea monster.
Photo Credit: Otero, R.A. et al, Cretaceous Research, 2016
It’s actually pretty rare to find mosasaurs in the Southern Hemisphere, lead researcher Rodrigo Otero told Live Science. While Antarctica now is a hostile environment for any species not specially adapted to its frigid temperatures, it used to be a little warmer. But scientists still didn’t think there could be predators as large as Kaikaifilu swimming in Antarctic waters, making this discovery incredibly surprising.
Armed with this new knowledge, scientists will continue to hunt for even bigger, toothier and more serpentine monsters beneath southern glaciers. And with this track record, they’ll probably find them.