Sclerotic Rings in Mosasaurs (Squamata: Mosasauridae): Structures and Taxonomic Diversity

A new paper released in the PLOS One journal describes sclerotic rings in mosasaurs.

Mosasaurs (Squamata: Mosasauridae) were a highly diverse, globally distributed group of aquatic lizards in the Late Cretaceous (98–66 million years ago) that exhibited a high degree of adaptation to life in water.

To date, despite their rich fossil record, the anatomy of complete mosasaur sclerotic rings, embedded in the sclera of the eyeball, has not been thoroughly investigated. We here describe and compare sclerotic rings of four mosasaur genera, Tylosaurus, Platecarpus, Clidastes, and Mosasaurus, for the first time.

Two specimens of Tylosaurus and Platecarpus share an exact scleral ossicle arrangement, excepting the missing portion in the specimen of Platecarpus. Furthermore, the exact arrangement and the total count of 14 ossicles per ring are shared between Tylosaurus and numerous living terrestrial lizard taxa, pertaining to both Iguania and Scleroglossa.

In contrast, two species of Mosasaurus share the identical count of 12 ossicles and the arrangement with each other, while no living lizard taxa share exactly the same arrangement. Such a mosaic distribution of these traits both among squamates globally and among obligatorily aquatic mosasaurs specifically suggests that neither the ossicle count nor their arrangement played major roles in the aquatic adaptation in mosasaur eyes.

All the mosasaur sclerotic rings examined consistently exhibit aperture eccentricity and the scleral ossicles with gently convex outer side. Hitherto unknown to any squamate taxa, one specimen of Platecarpus unexpectedly shows a raised, concentric band of roughened surface on the inner surface of the sclerotic ring.

It is possible that one or both of these latter features may have related to adaptation towards aquatic vision in mosasaurs, but further quantitative study of extant reptilian clades containing both terrestrial and aquatic taxa is critical and necessary in order to understand possible adaptive significances of such osteological features.

View the full paper here.

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1 comment
  1. Mosasaurs are one of my favorite subjects of study within paleontology, and I eagerly soak up any information that I can about them. I look foward to reading more about this.

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