Fossilized remains of a „truly colossal” ancient sea monster have been accidentally discovered in an English museum, revealing one of the largest carnivores ever to stalk the seas.
The four bones are the vertebrae of an unknown species of Jurassic predator called a pliosaur, and the dagger-toothed creatures could grow to nearly 50 feet (15 meters) long — twice the length of an orca (Orcinus orca) The new discovery drastically revises previous estimates of the size of prehistoric monsters.
„It’s wonderful to demonstrate that there really was a truly gigantic pliosaur in the Jurassic seas.” David Hammer (opens in new tab)Professor of Paleobiology at the University of Portsmouth, England. said in a statement (opens in new tab). „It wouldn’t surprise me if one day we find some clear evidence that this monstrous species is even larger.”
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Myrtle discovered the bones while looking through fossil drawers at Abington County Hall Museum in England, after encountering a large vertebra, and was told by the museum’s curator that three more were in storage. Fossils from the Kimmeridge Clay Formation were first discovered during excavations at Warren Farm in Oxfordshire. They were found in deposits dating back to about 152 million years ago in the late Jurassic period.
By laser scanning the fossils, Mart and his colleagues determined they belonged to a monstrous sea monster that stretched from about 32 feet to 47 feet (9.8 to 14.4 m) in length, the largest pliosaur ever discovered. Before this, one of the largest pliosaurs known was Kronosaurus (Chronosaurus queenslandicus), which grew to 33 to 36 feet (10 to 11 meters).
During the Jurassic period (201 to 145 million years ago), the largest predators of the sea were pliosaurs. They stalk the ocean using four powerful, paddle-like flippers. Pliosaurs may have been ambush predators, leaping at prey from deep and dark waters, stabbing them with sharp dagger-like teeth, and crushing them with a bite more powerful than a Tyrannosaurus rex.
„We know these pliosaurs were the most fearsome animals in the seas that covered Oxfordshire 145-152 million years ago,” Martle said. „They were at the top of the marine food chain and probably preyed on ichthyosaurs, long-necked plesiosaurs and small marine crocodiles by biting them in half and removing the pieces.”
The researchers published their findings May 10 in the journal Proceedings of the Association of Geologists (opens in new tab).
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