Although I’m fascinated by the ocean, I confess it scares the Hell out of me. I’m pretty sure it stems from seeing JAWS when I was kid, and that I’m far from alone in that regard. Millions of years ago, however, there were far deadlier creatures lurking in the ocean depths than a rogue great white shark. The Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Research Center dedicated lots of space to both bones and replicas of prehistoric sea beasts and I thought it was fantastic!
One fearsome example was Tylosaurus which I mentioned a couple of posts ago. Tylosaurus was an aquatic reptile from the Mosasaur family a.k.a what you saw leaping out of the water in Jurassic World (though likely less trainable). Replicas of Mosasaurs and other aquatic reptiles from the Cretaceous period literally hung from the walls in this museum giving guests an idea of what it might be like having them swimming above.Fossils of this powerful predator have been found virtually all over the world with Tylosaurus found right here in the southwest.
One of the most frightening bony fish to have swum the Cretaceous seas was Xiphactinus (pronounced zih-FACK-tih-nuss). If its size didn’t intimidate you (up to twenty feet long) than its fearsome teeth certainly would have. One of the most famous examples of this fossil is on display in Kansas. Their “fish within a fish” specimen shows a nearly intact 13 foot Xiphactinus with a six-foot fish fossilized in its stomach. The prehistoric terror was clearly a victim of gobbling up more than it could chew. I loved this museum’s life-sized recreation of Xiphactinus alongside a skeletal one; proving it was just as frightening dead as it must have been alive!
Pachyrhizodus caninus was another predatory fish from the late Cretaceous Period. Fossils of these ray-finned fish have been found in Kansas which was once an ocean.
The presence of a Coelacanth in this exhibit was a bit disconcerting. This lobe-finned fish is an example of animal believed long extinct before being discovered very much alive in the 20th Century.
I must say the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center is a truly amazing and dynamic place! It offers lots of learning opportunities as well as new discoveries that seasoned paleo-lovers likely aren’t familiar with. The marine section alone is worth the admission and it has a large gift shop filled with unique items so be sure to bring extra cash!