Mosasaurs (Squamata, Mosasauridae) were large aquatic reptiles from the Late Cretaceous that filled a range of ecological niches within marine ecosystems. The type-Maastrichtian strata (68–66 Ma) of the Netherlands and Belgium preserve remains of five species that seemed to have performed different ecological roles (carnivores, piscivores, durophages). However, many interpretations of mosasaur diet and niche partitioning are based on qualitative types of evidence that are difficult to test explicitly. Here, we apply three-dimensional dental microwear texture analysis (DMTA) to provide quantitative dietary constraints for type-Maastrichtian mosasaurs, and to assess levels of niche partitioning between taxa. DMTA indicates that these mosasaurs did not exhibit neatly defined diets or strict dietary partitioning. Instead, we identify three broad groups: (i) mosasaurs Carinodens belgicus and Plioplatecarpus marshi plotting in the space of modern reptiles that are predominantly piscivorous and/or consume harder invertebrate prey, (ii) Prognathodon saturator and Prognathodon sectorius overlapping with extant reptiles that consume larger amounts of softer invertebrate prey items, and (iii) Mosasaurus hoffmanni spanning a larger plot area in terms of dietary constraints. The clear divide between the aforementioned first two groups in texture-dietary space indicates that, despite our small sample sizes, this method shows the potential of DMTA to test hypotheses and provide quantitative constraints on mosasaur diets and ecological roles.

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Scientific Reports

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Staff publications

Holwerda, F., Bestwick, Jordan, Purnell, Mark A., Jagt, John W. M., & Schulp, A. (2023). Three-dimensional dental microwear in type-Maastrichtian mosasaur teeth (Reptilia, Squamata). Scientific Reports, 13(18720). doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42369-7