EDITOR'S NOTES: The following is a translation of: Goldfuss, A. 1845. Der Schädelbau des Mosasaurus, durch Beschreibung einer neuen Art dieser Gattung erläutert. Nova Acta Academa Ceasar Leopoldino-Carolinae Germanicae Natura Curiosorum 21: 1–28. The paper represents the first detailed description of a mosasaur skull. Although prepared and described in Germany, the remains came from the Late Cretaceous rocks along the Missouri River in South Dakota. The missing anterior portion (snout) of the skull and other fragments had been collected earlier by a trapper and mistakenly described by Dr. Richard Harlan (1834) as part of the skull of Ichthyosaurus missouriensis. The remains subsequently disappeared and were thought to be lost, but the snout was recently relocated in the National Museum of Natural History in Paris by Caldwell and Bell (2005). Prince Maximilian zu Wied acquired the rest of the specimen during his travels in North America in 1832–1834 and shipped it back to Germany. There Dr. Georg August Goldfuss (1782–1848; Fig. 1) spent nearly eight years meticulously removing the bones from the surrounding limestone concretion. At the time of publication, other scientists were certain that the Harlan specimen was actually part of the Goldfuss Mosasaurus (see Von Meyer, 1845).
His description and actual sized, highly detailed plates include many of the features later claimed as discoveries by Cope and Marsh, including “the parietal and jugal arches, the pterygoids and vomers, the position of the quadrate and the presence of sclerotic plates” around the eye (Williston 1898. p. 85; see also Russell 1967, Everhart 2005). Unfortunately, although Harlan had been terribly wrong about his identification of the original fragments of the specimen, his species name (missouriensis) has priority over Goldfuss' choice of Maximiliana, in honoring his benefactor.
The paper was translated from the original German by Dr. Robert T. Firestone (ret.), University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages with assistance of the editor and Earl Manning, then at Tulane University. Most recently the context of the translation was improved by Sven Sachs (Engelskirchen, Germany).