‘Sea monster’: Giant pliosaur skull on display

Henry

A 150-million-year-old skull of a giant sea monster unearthed on the Jurassic coast in south-west England is now on display at the Etches Collection at Kimmeridge in Dorset, England.

BBC reports that the two meter long skull is that of a pliosaurus – one of the most fearsome predators that ever inhabited the planet.

Sir David Attenborough explored the discovery in a BBC documentary broadcast on New Year’s Day.

The snout of the pliosaurus was discovered by a fossil enthusiast on a beach near Kimmeridge Bay. The rest of the skull was retrieved from a rapidly eroding cliff by a team that abseiled down the cliff. Other parts of the animal’s skeleton may still be buried in the crumbling cliffs and the hope is that these can also be recovered in time.

Steve Etches led the project to remove and prepare the fossil.

The giant sea monster’s skull is now on display at the museum, which is named after Etches – alongside the Jurassic fossils that took him a lifetime to collect.

“It’s going to be impressive, especially when children visit the museum to see the gigantic sea monster face to face.

“The skull of the pliosaurus is one of the most complete specimens ever found. It also doesn’t take much imagination to see that this animal was a killing machine,” Etches told BBC News.

The pliosaur’s enormous crocodile-like jaw was packed with 130 razor-sharp teeth and the cavities on either side of the skull would have been filled with large muscles.

Researchers estimate that the animal’s bite force would have been almost the same as that of Tyrannosaurus rex – which earned the pliosaurus the nickname of “sea-rex”.

“With a length of between 10 m and 12 m, the ancient reptile moved through the sea with the help of its four large paddle-like limbs. So, despite its size, the sea monster probably moved very quickly,” says Etches.

Passing prey would be devoured with a single bite and scientists don’t think this monster even bothered to chew its prey.

“Pliosaurs were at the very top of the food chain. They would even feed on their own kind. In the collections, we found pliosaur bones with pliosaur bite marks on them,” says Etches.

In addition to public interest in this prehistoric animal, researchers are also eager to witness the fossil up close.

It has features not seen on other pliosaurs, including a high crest.

  • Source: BBC