By chance, palaeontologists have found the fossilized remains of an enormous prehistoric sea monster in a natural history museum in the UK.
The bones are vertebrae belonging to a species of Jurassic predator called a pliosaur and reveal that these creatures could reach almost 50 feet (15 meters) in length, twice that of an orca, according to Life Science’s Ben Turner.
This discovery has surpassed previous estimates for the size of prehistoric creatures, indicating they could reach monstrous proportions.
David Martill, a professor of paleobiology at the University of Portsmouth in the UK, commented on the discovery, stating, “It’s wonderful to prove there was indeed a truly gigantic pliosaur species in the Late Jurassic seas. It wouldn’t surprise me if one day we find some clear evidence that this monstrous species was even bigger.”
The bones were discovered by Martill whilst perusing fossil drawers at Abingdon County Hall Museum in the UK. After finding a large vertebra, he was informed by the museum’s curator that three more were in storage.
“The fossils, which were originally discovered during excavations at Warren Farm in Oxfordshire, belong to the Kimmeridge Clay Formation and are from a deposit estimated to be around 152 million years old, from the late Jurassic period,” the article said.
Laser scanning the fossils, Martill and his team determined that they belonged to a “terrible sea monster” that measured from around 32 feet to 47 feet (9.8 to 14.4 m) in length, making it the largest known pliosaur ever discovered.
The largest known pliosaur had been the Kronosaurus queenslandicus, reaching between 33 to 36 feet (10 to 11 meters) in length. Pliosaurs were the largest predators of the ocean during the Jurassic period between 201 to 145 million years ago. They used four powerful paddle-like flippers, and were believed to be ambush predators, leaping out and impaling prey with dagger-sharp teeth before crushing them with a bite stronger than that of a Tyrannosaurus rex, according to the article.
“We know these pliosaurs were very fearsome animals swimming in the seas that covered Oxfordshire 145-152 million years ago,” Martill said. “They were at the top of the marine food chain and probably preyed on ichthyosaurs, long-necked plesiosaurs, and maybe even smaller marine crocodiles, simply by biting them in half and taking chunks off them.”