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Saurian DevLog #12 – Maastrichtian Lurker Shark

This week we have a special on a very unique animal in the context of the game. As I am writing a section this time around, lets jump right into it.

Way back when I first joined Saurian in 2013, the team already had an extensive animal list for this then unnamed project. This list was an absolute mess of Campanian, Maastrictian and even Paleocene fauna from all over North America. I quickly took out the scissors, first removing non-Maastrictian, then non-Hell Creek fauna, then Hell Creek taxa that had gone extinct before the upper third of the formation, and finally taxa are not found at the specific site our game is based on. Through all of this, one animal held on, managing to evade joining Alamosaurus and kin on the cutting room floor. This animal was the mosasaur Mosasaurus hoffmanni. No remains of this animal are known from Hell Creek (the marine tongue in South Dakota preserves only invertebrates), but it is found in the latest Maastrictian both in Europe and North America.

The reason this animal was able to hold on is for it’s functionality. As our game map is bordered on one side by the ocean, we require some mechanic that prevents the player from swimming to the edge of the map and falling of the edge of the earth. Some of you may be familiar with Jak and Daxter, a game in which an un-killable creature called the “Lurker Shark” will kill a player when they swim too far out into the water. This is how the mosasaur will function in Saurian. At up to 17 meters long, even an adult T. rex would stand no chance against Mosasaurus hoffmanni when in it’s watery realm.

While it’s age and presence in the Western Interior Seaway did not make the animal’s inclusion too large a stretch of accuracy, we were mostly vindicated in 2015 when a complete skull of M. hoffmanni was found in the Fox Hills formation. The Fox Hills formation is late Maastrictian and is located within South Dakota, where our site also is found. Fox Hills is actually closer to our site than many of the famous Hell Creek deposits in Montana.

So among other things in the last two weeks, most notably I’ve been working on the much anticipated Mosasaur. Thanks to a lovely concept piece by RJ and generous guidance from Nathan Van Vranken, we’ve yet again probably made one of the most rigorous restorations of this animal to date. I feel like I say that every time, but once you stick to the science it can be pretty jarring how different these creatures look from popular renderings. Its not quite done, Nathan gave us one bit of info about the parietal foramen (which don’t appear present, bad Jake) and I intend to give it some gnarly pathologies to give it some rugged handsome character. I was nurtured on games like Jak and Daxter where the water edge guard literally gave me nightmares, this guy should make you afraid of the water like Jaws on steroids.

Mosasaurus hoffmanni by Jake Baardse.

Chris L.
In my never ending attempt to make sure Jake’s dinos are well-fed, I present another denizen of the interior sea: the horseshoe crab. Related to spiders and they have blue blood, why would you not want to chomp them down? Awesome creatures with many cool parts, but sadly I think I will forever have nightmares of their mouths… and the fact that I actually looked up ‘horseshoe crab anus’.

  • surgeon in delhi on June 2, 2017

    I have been checking out some of your stories and i must say clever stuff. I will surely bookmark your website.

  • jelani on April 24, 2017

    do you think maybe someday you will possibly have like an undersea dlc and eventually make the Mosasaurus playable.
    and maybe a tylosaurus my favorite mosasur witch i think was also found in hells aquarium.

    • Lane H. on May 10, 2017

      Tylosaur was extinct before the game setting.

  • on February 28, 2017

    Excellent, what a web site it is! This blog presents valuable data to us, keep it up.

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  • Tyler nelson on February 10, 2017

    This is actually the best Mosasaur concept I’ve ever seen.

  • Addweights on January 30, 2017

    When is the game coming out I’m exited

    • Max on January 31, 2017

      Steam early access will be open sometime during Q1 of 2017. Release will be end of 2017.

  • Mamenchi on January 29, 2017

    I really like the idea of a Mosasaur as a deadly guard to the map edge… I only have one question: other than being an automatic killing machine that prevents us from leaving the map, could Mosasaur also be a food source, a rotting carcass left on the beach that we can every now and again find and use as an exceptional food source?

    • Lehmannmo on February 2, 2017

      No. I asked on Tumblr, they said that this isnt planned.

  • Kirara on January 29, 2017

    Never seen a Mosasaur rendering with a tongue like that :0 highly curious as to the motivation behind it!

    • Ahmed on January 30, 2017

      Most likely it’s because Mosasaurus was related to modern day snakes.

    • Daniel on January 30, 2017

      It’s closest living relatives are snakes and monitor lizards, both of which have forked tongues.

    • Nathan VV on January 30, 2017

      Schulp, 2005 study

  • Red on January 27, 2017

    The highly textured scales (as opposed to something more aquadynamic) and lack of strong countershading is making me think land reptile when I see it, but other than that… this is a GREAT addition and design! I can’t believe that I am somehow even more excited for this game.

    • Hunter1324 on February 1, 2017

      That’s because Mosasaurus had textured scales in real life.

      Both in relativelly basal members like Ectenosaurus

      And the highly derived Plotosaurus

      As for colorataion looking at modern cetaceans and sharks it’s very likely that it was different among each genus and even species so coloring a Mosasaurus in a different way that the known coloration of Platecarpus isn’t exactly wrong.

      • Red on February 2, 2017

        Whoa!! I’d somehow missed the known-textured-scales information! That’s surprising and really fascinating. Dang, I learned something today.

        And yeah, the countershading comment was mostly based on my own observed associations, instead of an actual argument based on paleontological knowledge. So, basically, just textured scales plus lack of countershaing makes me think of land lizards, aesthetically. You’re totally right that there isn’t actually reason NOT to color them like this, though. And now that I know Mosasaurs actually did have textured scales, I’m sure that association will eventually loosen in my head.

        Thank you so much for responding! You guys continue to astound me.

  • Lil' Pliosaur on January 26, 2017

    Hey guys, I was wondering about the size of the mosasaurus. You and most other people claim that mosasaurus was 17 or 18 meters in length, but then I stumbled upon this discussion on mosasaurs in carnivora:
    My question is if the information in it is accurate, then why did an estimate based on inaccurate head – body ratio that was applied to the jaw got so well known and popular? Do we have other evidence to support this monster being as huge as it is claimed to be?

    • Nathan VV on January 30, 2017

      I would not use Carnivoria as any source of reliable information. Consult peer reviewed literature and or scientists. 17-18m specimens have been discussed at various technical meetings based off of fragmentary material. Mosasaurs could in theory, have gotten to whale sizes at least if the K-Pg never occurred. Isotope data, fragmentary specimens, and modeling supports this.

      Measurements can get skewed, no one is perfect like the editors. I’m assuming you are basing off the Lingham-Solier material.

      • Lil' Pliosaur on February 5, 2017

        Could you please give me a name of those fragmentary specimens that indicate the size of 17 meters?

  • Henry on January 25, 2017

    Iiiinteresting. So out of curiosity, would these fellas be separate, roving entities, or would they just kinda pop out of nowhere and eat you a la giant sea monkey from spore? Honestly, either way would be fine with me, but I’m curious nevertheless. It’s certainly a better idea then some giant, lazy invisible wall out in the middle of the water. I guess you could also implement a limited swim time, so creatures would just kind of drown if they kept swimming for long enough, but a Mosasaur would also be quite cool. Also, love horseshoe crabs. They’re so cute! Don’t know what everyone’s so horrified about.

    • Spinosaurus Aegyptiacus on January 27, 2017

      ME neither, I think Horseshoe crabs are cute!

  • NublarRex on January 25, 2017

    Who would guard the land borders? A quetzalcoatlus or some other large unkillable predator.

    • david on January 27, 2017

      How about a metior hits you if you leave the bouneries for too long like 10 seconds

    • Paleosir on January 29, 2017

      How would a quetzalcoatlus be an unkillable creature? The HC species weighs 30 kg at best against the 8 tonnes of T.rex it needs to stop from crossing.

      A better bet would be very tall cliffs and mountains, lava streams and dense forest.

  • jelani on January 23, 2017

    i would love it more if it lost the fluke there is no proof that all mosasaurs had flukes some might have but not all.

    • Deus Vult on January 25, 2017

      Why wouldn’t it have one tho? there’s no proof that it didn’t.

    • Hunter1324 on January 25, 2017

      Well here’s no proof that all wild felines had fur, yet how come no Smilodon reconstruction is ever shown without it?

    • Paleosir on January 29, 2017

      Prognathodon and Platecarpus both preserve their tail flukes.
      They are both from different mosasaurian lineages, meaning their common ancestor had one too.
      If the common ancestor and those 2 had a tail fluke, it is the logical conclusion all mosasaurs coming from that common ancestor should be scientifically restored with a fluke.
      Besides, Mosasaurus caudal vertebrae show that the tail tapered in the exact same way as Prognathodon and Platecarpus, meaning the tail functioned similarly biomechenically so it would have a tail fluke.

      • Nathan VV on January 30, 2017

        Mosasaurus and Prognathodon are both very well grouped within their respective nodes to posses a fluke when looking at the terminal bend. The recent analysis done by myself and several others have reproduced this all the way up to the node that connects Mosasaurids+Prognathodontids+Piloplatecarpines.

  • Asia on January 22, 2017

    (the mossasaurus skull was really put there by saurian team to support its presence in the game, i saw through you xD)

  • Luke on January 22, 2017

    What a great mini game or achievement: eat 100 horseshoe crabs before you’re swallowed whole.

  • Spinosaurus Aegyptiacus on January 22, 2017

    Awesome! I love it 🙂

  • BK Jeong on January 21, 2017

    Why the Lurker epithet?

    Mosasaurs were thought to have been reliant on ambush before, when we thought they were anguilliform swimmers, but we now know they were far more efficient swimmers and with an endothermic metabolism.

    • Garrus on January 24, 2017

      Because of the similarity of its role to that of the Lurker Shark from Jak and Daxter.

  • Garrus on January 20, 2017

    I’m amazed at how many comments we have comparing Mosasaurus with the sea monster from Spore. Internally, it has been viewed more similarly to the lurker shark from Jak and Daxter. Then again, considering this community, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that Spore was the first analogy which sprung to mind for you lot rather than Jak and Daxter.

    • DinoDash on January 23, 2017

      Yeah, while the mosasaur in saurian may have more in common with the lurker shark, spore (or at least the creature stage) is a much more similar game to saurian.

  • RainbowPrism The Dragon on January 20, 2017

    So, does it act like the spore creature in the water, or just as a thing people control?

  • Paleosir on January 20, 2017

    Getting more and more hyped every devlop 🙂
    That Mosasaurus looks beautiful

  • Ana on January 20, 2017

    im saddened the mosa wont be in the game but i understand but i think.. htat instead of using a creature to keep us from falling off the map…….. isnt it better to FINISH the map with a wall up???? i mean seriously, your game an mechanics to me no wall an using a dino as a guard for falling off the map seems a bit lazy to me

    • J Lo on January 23, 2017

      Map walls ruin immersion when your trying to make a game feel expansive. I personally think a border guard is an amazing idea that will make you think their is more out there!

      PS. Keep up the amazing work Saurian Team.

    • Garrus on January 24, 2017

      Mosasaurus WILL be in the game. It’s there because, frankly, an invisible wall is more immersion breaking than having something physically punish you for attempting to leave the map from the ocean side. Unlike ARK, we do not have the option of a literal force field to keep you from leaving by sea. So, we punish you by having something kill you.

    • NathB$ on January 25, 2017

      A wall in the middle of the ocean?

      • Wolff Jaw on January 25, 2017

        Trump approves!

        • slimeywoodchip on January 26, 2017

          I came here to hear about dinosaurs, not trump. Mind keeping politics somewhere else?

  • MatthewBIRDZ on January 20, 2017

    Hey Saurian,
    Mosasaurus most likely had sharp counter-shading.
    Other than that, awesome!

    • Rhydianvdk on January 26, 2017

      Yeah, I once commented them about it on their Tumblr, since they still had this image of a beige looking whale shark skin pattern on their Mosasaurus. I referenced the scale preservation of the Plateparcus tympaniticus 2014 specimen and it’s black and white counter shading. I got a response saying that their model was outdated and that they recognised the new and more accurate data. So seeing this colouration in the update caught me offguard.

  • NublarRex on January 20, 2017

    I’m not really sure who to fear the mosasaur or the horeshoe crab?

  • Joseph Lopez on January 20, 2017

    All i can say is wow, i’m dumbstruck as to how awesome this is. now i’m going to think these guys are right under me as i kayak. No Sleep

  • Kaprosuchusdragon on January 20, 2017

    when will we see the Rj Palmer concept?

  • Dani on January 20, 2017

    So the Mosasaurus functions like Spore’s giant water creature?

    • Starphy on January 20, 2017

      That was my first thought, too!

    • Joseph on January 20, 2017

      Ah, the good ol’ Battered Feesh. I miss Spore.

  • slimeywoodchip on January 20, 2017

    little did I know, on that very day…

    I would never see horseshoe crabs in the same light again…. *shutters uncontrollably*

    (nice mosasaur :3)

    • Garrus on January 20, 2017

      I have taken perverse pleasure at aquarium touch tanks by informing people that the animal they’re petting is related to tarantulas and scorpions. The looks on their face is priceless.

  • Charles Bruce on January 20, 2017

    Each devlog that comes out makes me more and more excited to play this game! Keep up the great work!!!

    • Palaeofansrock on January 20, 2017

      You ain’t alone!

  • Hunter1324 on January 20, 2017

    Dammit! I wanted to swim all the way to Appalachia to figure out what kind of fauna lived at the time in there 😉

    Great job.

    • Garrus on January 20, 2017

      f you could, the entire scientific community would swarm you for information. We know jack all about what lived in Appalachia. Unfortunately, our development team and consultants are not psychic, and we don’t have a time machine handy.

  • tortoiseguy1 on January 20, 2017

    will the mosasaur be an actual in-game creature, or will it be like spore, where swimming too far out triggers an unavoidable cutscene where you get eaten? it’d be cool to be able to just watch it swim around for a bit. like whale-watching, but with mosasaurs.

    • Regole on January 20, 2017

      I like the idea of having an opportunity to stand on shore and watch a mosasaur swim idly by, and even getting chased while swimming close to shore but still having the opportunity to get away if you’re watchful and not too bold. It’d only be when you went past a “point of no return” that there’d be zero chance of escape.

    • Garrus on January 20, 2017

      It will be like Spore.

  • James Vogel on January 20, 2017

    It reminds my of the mosasaurs that were used in the film, Speckles The Tarbosaurus and Mega Beast; T Rex of the Deep. Who else see it?

  • DinoDash on January 20, 2017

    So the mosasaur is gonna be just like the sea monster in the creature stage of spore. Will it actually be impossible to evade the mosasaur?

    • Turtledragon on January 20, 2017

      The Spore monster is what I first thought of too!

  • A very shady person on January 20, 2017

    Hurry up and release saurian…. your killing me lol. Thanks for another great devlog <3

  • Travis on January 19, 2017

    It would appear that the lowly Horseshoe Crab is a descendant of the noble Trilobite.

    • Garrus on January 20, 2017

      Close, yet so far. As far as I know, the triolobites are the sister clade to chelicerates- spiders, scorpions, solifugids, and yes, the horsehoe crab among others. However, trilobites went completely extinct; no taxa exist that are direct descendants of the trilobites.

  • Myshkat on January 19, 2017

    I really, really love all the work that is being done in this game. You guys are my inspiration. I love the concept, but I was wondering, will this creature only live in the edge of the world? Or will it be found in all the ocean? Keep up the amazing work!!

    • Garrus on January 20, 2017

      It will only exist if you swim too close to the border. Before that, it does not exist. It is Schrodinger’s Mosasaurus.

      • Rhydianvdk on January 26, 2017

        It would be lovely if we could find a washed up mosasaurus somewhere in the map as an easter egg.

        • DinoDash on January 29, 2017

          Yes!!! A very large and tasty Easter egg.

  • NathB$ on January 19, 2017

    I love that mosasaur! This is much cooler than invisible walls (deadlier but still cooler)

  • Goliath's AI on January 19, 2017

    I have one question, is the monitor like tongue a speculation, or a semi grounded fact. It is to My knowledge that the Mosasaurus family is related to monitors, but I would still like the know. 😛

    P.s. Horseshoe anus. XD

    • Rhydianvdk on January 26, 2017

      To my understanding due to the close relation between monitors and mosasaurs, various palaeontologist agree that the mosasaurs would have forked tongues.

  • slimeywoodchip on January 19, 2017

    what has my life come to…

    Looking at terrifying images of horseshoe crabs while simultaneously developing a new phobia for anything and everything in the ocean

    (R.I.P. Chris’s search history)

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