An amateur fossil hunter has unearthed an important piece of evolutionary history while searching on a dirt site earmarked for a new subdivision lot in Dallas
Scientists have confirmed today that Turner, a fulltime IT consultant had discovered the well preserved early mosasaur found in North America.
Described as “T Rex of the ocean”- it looks like an Indonesian Komodo Dragon and lived 92 million years ago.
“Science marches slowly, and my biggest fear all along has been that another specimen of the same animal would be found, and it would be described, and I would lose any first claim to it,” said Turner. “That never happened, and it kind of reassured the rarity of the animal.”
The reptile, now known as Dallasaurus turneri, is identified in a special issue of the Netherlands Journal of Geosciences published this month. The article was written by paleontologists Michael Polcyn of Southern Methodist University and Gordon Bell Jr of
Guadalupe National Park.
The scientists believe the lizard is an important link in the evolution, because of it’s evolved fin like limbs. The marine animals later developed paddles.
Before this discovery, only five primitive forms of the animal with land-capable limbs were known, and all of them were found over the last century in the Middle East and the eastern Adriatic Sea.
Turner’s find, made at Cedar Hill south of Dallas, highlights the importance of contributions made by amateur fossil hunters to science.
“This just goes to show you that what you want is a lot of people looking for stuff,” Turner said. “You want them to be able to recognise important finds or have the people who can do it.”
Mosasaurs lived in the shallow seas and shores of a stretch of Texas around Dallas and Fort Worth that was mostly under water back then, Polcyn said.
The animals evolved into the top predator of their domain before becoming extinct 65 million years ago.