Dakosaurus were fearsome predators that lived during the Late Jurassic period, around 152 to 157 million years ago. This prehistoric reptile was a member of the family Metriorhynchidae. This family consists of marine crocodylomorphs that evolved to live almost exclusively in the ocean.
While it was not well-known as some marine reptiles of the time, like Plesiosaurs and Ichthyosaurs, Dakosaurus was a formidable predator in its own right. It could easily swim through the water with a streamlined body and powerful flippers. Read on for more about the evolution and ecology of these fascinating prehistoric creatures.
Dakosaurus was a large and long reptile, measuring up to approximately 4.5 meters. The long, narrow snout filled with sharp teeth shows that Dakosaurus was well-suited for catching and eating fish and other marine animals. At the same it, it had a streamlined body with four flippers that allowed it to move quickly through the water.
You might have noticed that Dakosaurus had a similar body shape to modern-day dolphins. That means it also had a tall dorsal fin and a fluke tail that provided propulsion. Its eyes were also high on its head, allowing it to see above the water’s surface.
Fossils of Dakosaurus have been found in Europe, South America, Africa, and other areas. They were typically found in marine environments such as shallow seas and coastal regions.
Based on the fossils, we strongly believe that Dakosaurus preferred warm, shallow waters with abundant marine life. They lived in the same areas as ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and other marine reptiles.
Credit: Dmitry Bogdanov Credit: Mark T. Young, Stephen L. Brusatte, Marco Brandalise de Andrade, Julia B. Desojo, Brian L. Beatty, et al.
In short, Dakosaurus had a wide distribution and inhabited various marine environments during the Late Jurassic period.
The fossil records also indicate that Dakosaurus was a powerful predator that fed on various marine animals. As we’ve seen, it had a long, narrow snout filled with sharp teeth. Without a doubt, this implies these reptiles had a relatively easy time catching and eating fish, squid, and other marine reptiles.
Imagine some Dakosaurus fossils were found with the remains of other marine reptiles. This discovery suggests that it may have been an opportunistic predator that hunted whatever it could catch.
Since the fossils reveal that Dakosaurus were reptiles, they likely laid their eggs on sandy beaches. You can compare them with modern-day sea turtles to see how the extinct animals reproduced.
After laying, these extinct animals likely buried the eggs in the sand to offer protection from predators and weather elements.
Researchers are working hard to find the exact reason for the extinction of Dakosaurus. However, our analysis suggests that changes in sea levels, climate variations, and competition among marine predators could be the main culprits.
History and archeology indicate the prevalence of significant sea-level fluctuations during the Late Jurassic period. These changes often led to unhealthy alterations in the marine ecosystem. These changes may have reduced the availability of prey for Dakosaurus and made it difficult for them to survive.
Additionally, the climate during the Late Jurassic was changing. Many parts of the earth began experiencing cooler and drier conditions towards the end of this troubled period. Climate change may have adversely affected the distribution of Dakosaurus and its ability to adapt.
Competition with other marine predators, such as pliosaurs and mosasaurs, may have also contributed to the decline of Dakosaurus. These animals were also apex predators.
Facts About Dakosaurus
- Dakosaurus was a member of the family Metriorhynchidae, a group of marine crocodylomorphs that evolved to live almost entirely in the ocean.
- Dakosaurus lived around 152 to 157 million years ago during the Late Jurassic period.
- Dakosaurus was a giant, long reptile, measuring up to 5 meters (16.4 feet) in length.
- Dakosaurus had a long, narrow snout with sharp teeth adapted for catching and eating fish and other marine animals.
- Fossils of Dakosaurus have been found in sedimentary rocks throughout Europe, including England, France, and Germany.
- Dakosaurus fed on various marine animals, including fish, squid, and other marine reptiles.
What is the difference between Dakosaurus and other marine reptiles?
Dakosaurus evolved to live almost entirely in the ocean. Other marine reptiles, such as plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs, were adapted to life in the water but still needed to breathe. Also, Dakosaurus lived during the Late Jurassic period, while other marine reptile groups like ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and mosasaurs appeared and flourished during different periods of the Mesozoic era.
How did Dakosaurus hunt for its prey?
Based on the available fossils records, Dakosaurus’ teeth were large, sharp, and serrated. This adaption indicates the animals were well-equipped to catch and eat fish, cephalopods (such as squid and ammonites), and other marine reptiles. Moreover, this powerful and agile predator likely hunted by ambushing its prey from below, much like modern crocodiles do. So, it waited patiently for an opportunity to strike and then used its powerful jaws to deliver a crushing bite.
How do scientists know when Dakosaurus lived?
Scientists use radiometric dating and other methods to examine the rock layers where the fossils were found. By analyzing the age of the rock layers where Dakosaurus fossils were found, scientists have determined that they lived during the Late Jurassic period, around 152 to 157 million years ago.
Is a Dakosaurus a Dinosaur?
No, a Dakosaurus is not a dinosaur. Although it lived during the same period as well-known dinosaurs like Stegosaurus and Allosaurus, Dakosaurus was a member of a group of marine crocodylomorphs called metriorhynchids. These were not dinosaurs but reptiles that evolved to live almost entirely in the ocean. While some dinosaurs lived in aquatic environments, they were less adapted to underwater hunting than metriorhynchids like Dakosaurus.
Are there living relatives of Dakosaurus?
No, there are no living relatives of Dakosaurus. Today, the closest living relatives of thalattosaurs are lizards, snakes, and tuatara, collectively grouped as the order Squamata. However, thalattosaurs and Squamata are not closely related. The last common ancestor of these groups lived around 250 million years ago, long before the evolution of thalattosaurs.
Therefore, while many interesting reptile species are alive today, none are direct living relatives of Dakosaurus.