The first Tylosaurus remains were discovered in the 1860s after the American Civil War. The first specimen was described by Edward Drinker Cope in 1869 as ‘Macrosaurus’ proriger. Hot on his heels in 1870, Cope’s arch-rival, Othniel Charles Marsh, began the first fossil hunting expeditions of Yale College. These uncovered more fossils of this ancient marine reptile. In 1872 Marsh created the name Tylosaurus, which means ‘knob (or snout) lizard’, in reference to the elongated bony muzzle that projects beyond the last teeth in the upper jaws.
Today, Tylosaurus is known from dozens of complete or partially complete skeletons and is one of the best known mosasaurs. It has 52 frightening, sharp, conical teeth in its main jaws that it used to catch and eat fish and other marine reptiles. Additional rows of teeth on the palate, at the top of its mouth, helped it to hold on to struggling prey and pull food into its gullet.