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Zarafasaura oceanis (4) - tooth

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Description

Origin : Morocco (Oued Zem)

Geological era : Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian)

Age : 72-66 million of years


see-reptil fossil tooth, 8.2 gr, mm 52 x 12.

Zarafasaura is an extinct marine reptile, belonging to the plesiosaurs ((from the Greek "plesios" = close to, and "sauros" = lizard). It lived at the end of the Upper Cretaceous (Maastrichtian, about 70 million years ago) and its remains were found in Morocco, it is one of the last known plesiosaurs, and the first described African Elasmosauridae.
This marine reptile is mainly known for an almost complete skull and jaw and other attributed remains that include an almost complete skeleton, about 7 meters long, found in the phosphate rocks of Morocco. Like all her close relatives (elasmosaurides), Zarafasaura had an exceptionally long neck, a crushed body and four limbs transformed into fin-like structures. Some characteristics (the shape of the scaly bone and the palate) distinguished it from the other elasmosaurids from North America and Japan. Moreover, the skull seems to have been shorter than that of similar forms.
The fossil remains of Zarafasaura, described for the first time in 2011, help to understand paleobiodiversity and palaeogeography of the upper Cretaceous plesiosaurs: the peculiar characteristics of Zarafasaura (whose name means "oceanic giraffe lizard") indicate that there was a certain degree of endemism among the Maastrichtian plesiosaurs, and that these were highly diversified and widespread globally just before the end of the Cretaceous period. This corroborates the hypothesis of a catastrophic extinction of the plesiosaurs in the K / T boundary, as occurred for many other groups including the dinosaurs.
The plesiosaurs were exclusively marine animals, probably feeding on belemnites and fish, or other similar prey. They moved thanks to the "paddles" since the tail was too short to be able to perform this function. The plesiosaur, in essence, had to be one of the most dangerous predators of his time, even though it was certainly not the greatest. Other plesiosaurs and some primitive pliosaurs exceeded it in size; some great sharks could also predate it.



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