(Molles lizard - After the formation where it was found).
Named By: Marta S. Fernández - 1999.
Synonyms: Ophthalmosaurus periallus.
Classification: Chordata, Reptilia, Ichthyosauria, Ophthalmosauridae, Ophthalmosaurinae.
Species: M. periallus (type).
Diet: Piscivore, possibly a specialist in squid and belemnites.
Known locations: Argentina, Patagonia - Los Molles Formation.
Time period: Bajocian of the Jurassic.
Fossil representation: Partial skull and vertebrae.
named in 1999, Mollesaurus got declared as a
in the following year by a review of the
Ophthalmosaurus genus by palaeontologists Michael
W. Maisch and
Andreas T. Matzke in 2000. This conclusion remained for about ten
years until 2010 when a further study by Patrick S. Druckenmiller
and Erin E. Maxwell identified key differences between the partial
skull then identified as O. periallus and other Ophthalmosaurus
fossils. Further study, including some involving Maisch, has
since reinforced the opinion that Mollesaurus
fossil material is indeed
representative of a distinct genus.
Aside from being resurrected as a different genus, Mollesaurus currently stands out from other ophthalmosaurids as possibly being the first member of the group to exist. As such Mollesaurus probably had a similar lifestyle and behaviour to other ophthalmosaurids which saw it diving deep to hunt prey like squid and belmenites that would have been more abundant in the lower depths. Unfortunately it is harder to say for certain it the presence of Mollesaurus in Patagonia hints at a South American origin for the ophthalmosaurid ichthyosaurs since as pelagic (open ocean) animals, they would have likely had a massive geographical range in order to take full advantage of the available prey which would not have been restricted to just one area of the world.