30-foot prehistoric marine lizard unearthed in North Texas

The discovery of a dinosaur skeleton about 80 miles northeast of Dallas is shedding light on what the area was like 80 million years ago. 

Dr. Ron Tykoski with the Perot Museum of Nature and Science helped direct the dig near the North Sulfur River in Fannin County a couple of weeks ago with an amateur fossil finder.

"What was found out there was something called a mosasaur – in this case about a 30-foot-long marine lizard that swam through our area around 80 million years ago," he said.

Tykoski said these types of fossils are somewhat common in the area and there is already a mosasaur on display at the museum. 

"But this is a new one and it adds to the count of the number of these specimens that we have in our area. And everything that we find – every new fossil, the piece of the fossil that the amateur found – tells us a little bit more about the life and times and the death of these animals," he said.

Breakthrough fossil discovery comes to Dallas

Photo courtesy the Perot Museum of Nature and Science

The fossils clearly suggest the area was underwater at the time.

"At the time this animal was alive, where you and I are sitting right now would have been under hundreds of feet of water. It would have been beautiful, warm, almost tropical oceans and seas filled with fish and reptiles and clams and oysters and sea life and things like that," Tykoski said. "It was a wonderful place to live if you were a big, hungry, predatory reptile."

The team spent about three weeks on the dig and pulled out some very large sections of the skeleton, including most of the skull. Some pieces weighed more than 100 pounds.

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There are still some pieces that need to be unearthed once the team gets the necessary equipment and the heat subsides. 

"We’re going to try to go on back and see what else we can find that might still be buried there after things cool down just a bit," Tykoski said.

The Perot Museum will host an event with more information about the dig and mosasaurs Thursday from 6-10 p.m. For more information, visit https://www.perotmuseum.org/events/adults/thursdays-on-tap/.