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SYFY WIRE dinosaurs

New Mosasaur Species, Jormungandr the World Serpent, Found in North Dakota

Time to build a new exhibit at Jurassic World.

By Cassidy Ward

Twenty-two years after John Hammond’s ill-fated attempt to open a dinosaur theme park, the world finally got its first look at a functioning park filled with prehistoric creatures and thousands of adoring onlookers in Jurassic World, streaming now on Peacock.

Though not technically a dinosaur, one of the park’s main attractions was the Mosasaurus exhibit, housed in a 3-million-gallon pool known as the Jurassic World Lagoon. There, park visitors could watch the gigantic aquatic lizard feast on Great White sharks before descending underground to view the beast in the water.

Newly Discovered Monster Mosasaur Discovered

A line drawing of the skull of Jormungandr walhallaensis

Mosasaurs were a diverse group of marine lizards which, much like whales and other cetaceans, adapted to life in the oceans. And though we’ve been digging them up for 200 years now, new species are still being discovered. Recently a team of paleontologists discovered not just a new species but an entirely new genus in the Pembina Member of the Pierre Shale Formation in North Dakota, United States.

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Researchers found a mostly complete skull and jaws as well as 7 cervical vertebrae, 5 anterior dorsal vertebrae, 11 ribs, and 3 structural bones supporting the brain called hypapophyseal peduncles. The bones belonged to an animal which lived approximately 80 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period. Scientists dubbed the creature Jormungandr walhallaensis for Walhalla, North Dakota where it was found and for Jörmungandr, the world serpent from Norse mythology.

In tales of old, it is said that Jörmungandr was the middle child of Loki, a great serpent cast by Odin into the ocean surrounding Midgard (Earth). There, it grew so large that eventually it encircled the world and grabbed hold of its own tail. When Jörmungandr finally lets loose its own tail, it will trigger a fight to the death with Thor himself and Ragnarok, the end of the world.

A reconstruction of two Jormungandr walhallaensis mosasaurs fighting in the ocean as flying dinosaurs soar overhead.

The discovery, published in a Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, fills in some of the gaps in the Mosasaur evolutionary tree. J. walhallaensis is believed to be a transitional form between two other groups of mosasaurs known as Clidastes and Plotosaurini. Researchers describe the creatures as a giant aquatic Komodo dragon with fins, stretching 24-feet long and wielding a shark-like tail.

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The description makes a certain amount of sense as Mosasaurs were marine lizards and there is some evidence that they are the direct ancestors of modern-day monitor lizards like the Komodo dragon. Dozens of feet long and with a bite as strong as a T. rex… world serpent, indeed.

Until such time as we succeed in resurrecting prehistoric creatures, your best bet at seeing a Mosasaur is in Jurassic World, streaming now on Peacock.