A fishy mosasaur: the axial skeleton of Plotosaurus (Reptilia, Squamata) reassessed
John W. M. Jagt
Michael W. Caldwell
Summary, in English
The concept of convergence, that is, how unrelated animals independently evolve similar morphological traits, is a fundamental aspect of evolution. Hitherto, the Mesozoic ichthyosaurs were regarded as the sole obligate marine reptiles that achieved a fully streamlined body and a semilunate tail fluke. However, analyses of vertebral centrum morphometrics and process orientation have revealed that a subsequent clade of secondarily aquatic reptiles, the mosasaurs (here exemplified by the advanced, mid-Maastrichtian mosasaurine Plotosaurus), had developed a deep, fusiform body and a probable pursuit-predatory behaviour by the time of their sudden extinction at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary. Stringent physical constraints and selection pressures, imposed by the surrounding water, probably were responsible for this spectacular example of large-scale evolutionary convergence.