And no, we’re not talking about
the Loch Ness Monster or the Megalodon,
we’re talking about a creature you
probably have never heard of.
In 2014, a British tourist spotted a strange
creature while on a cruise ship
in the Gulf of Mexico.
It became known as the
‘Carnival Cruise Monster’
and the description sounded a lot like a
long extinct apex predator, the Mosasaur.
But if the Mosasaur had survived the extinction
event, which killed off three-quarters
of the plant and animal species on Earth,
then we’d definitely know about it.
It would have completely changed what our
oceans look like and how we use them.
In fact, if the Mosasaur was still
roaming our oceans,
the Megalodon might never have existed.
But how can one animal have such a huge impact?
These nightmarish marine animals were
actually giant lizards.
Kind of like land-dwelling Komodo dragons,
but they evolved for life in the ocean.
Their anatomy made them dangerous predators.
Imagine a lizard monster with the
double-hinged jaw of a snake,
massive teeth, and a tail like a shark.
And they could be as large as 18 meters (56 feet) long.
That’s 4 meters (14 feet) longer than your
average yellow school bus.
They basically ate anything they wanted.
No fish, dolphins, sharks, whales,
or even other Mosasaurs were safe.
Fossils from this species have been found on every continent,
evidence that these lizard kings dominated
the oceans in the Cretaceous period.
But they weren’t all so ferocious,
with some species being as small as 1 meter (3 feet) long.
Then how did they become so terrifying?
Their ancestors were more like the marine iguanas living
on the Galapagos Islands today.
Around 90 million years ago,
these lizards would have ventured into the ocean for food.
At first, they stayed close to the shoreline.
But as they evolved,
they started to make the open ocean their home.
The evolution of their powerful tail vertebrae
made them skilled and speedy swimmers,
helping them move further away from the shore.
They also remained close to the surface because,
like dolphins and whales,
they needed to come up for air.
It only took 27 million years for the Mosasaur of Jurassic Park to evolve.
Of course, the Mosasaur in this movie is not very accurate.
Even though a real Mosasaur was smaller than the one in Jurassic Park,
it was still a very dangerous creature.
If this species were alive today,
it would completely alter our oceans.
Much of the marine life we know today
probably wouldn’t exist with the Mosasaur inhabiting our seas.
They just wouldn’t have stood a chance against this mighty foe.
Instead, the fish and mammals in our oceans
would look and act much differently than they do today.
They would have adapted special traits
and methods to avoid the Mosasaurus.
One ecological theory is that predators
actually drive evolution because they force
prey to adapt, and quickly.
In fact, a 2007 study found that the
diversity of marine creatures
over the past hundreds of millions of years
is directly tied to interactions between predator and prey.
So, our oceans might actually be even more
diverse if the Mosasaurus still existed.
But what about us?
Well, this giant lizard would make the oceans
a much more dangerous place for humans.
We would need much larger boats.
Small fishing boats and sail boats could
be swallowed whole by this creature!
Ocean hobbies like sailing and fishing
wouldn’t be as popular,
and swimming and surfing would certainly be life-threatening.
And maybe the story of Moby Dick
would be about a menacing Mosasaur,
instead of a whale.
Thankfully, Mosasaurus do not exist today,
or our oceans would look completely different.
And that’s a good thing.
If the Mosasaurus were able to survive extinction,
what’s to say other species couldn’t survive too?
Just imagine pterodactyls flying overhead!