Mosasaur predation on a nautiloid from the Maastrichtian Pierre Shale, Central Colorado, Western Interior Basin, United States



Mosasaurs were common predators on the ammonites that inhabited the upper water column of the Late Cretaceous Western Interior epicontinental seaway of North America. Mosasaurs developed predictable behaviour patterns for feeding on ammonite prey. There are no previous reports of mosasaur predation on the much less common Cretaceous nautiloids, possibly because of the prey's predominantly deep, epibenthic habitat, as deduced from modern Nautilus life habits. A single specimen of the highly inflated nautiloid, Eutrephoceras dekayi (Conrad), prey to a small adult mosasaur, likely Platycarpus, Prognathodon or Mosasaurus, is reported herein from the Pierre Shale of Colorado in the Early Maastrichtian biozone of Baculitesgrandis transitional to the biozone of B. clinolobatus. The nautiloid was killed in the same manner as described previously for discoid ammonites (Placenticeras, Sphenodiscus) from coeval strata in the USA and Canada.