Jurassic Sea Monster: Pliosaur Discovery on England’s Coast

A Remarkable Find on the Jurassic Coast

In the heart of England’s World Heritage Site, the “Jurassic Coast,” fossil enthusiast Phil Jacobs stumbled upon an extraordinary discovery. Last year, during a casual stroll, Jacobs uncovered the jaw of a pliosaur, a colossal reptile that once ruled the seas approximately 150 million years ago.

The Colossal Pliosaur

Measuring almost six and a half feet in length, the pliosaur’s skull is incredibly massive. Source: Geo.tv

The pliosaur, a sea monster of unparalleled size, could reach lengths of 32-39 feet, rivaling the dimensions of a double-decker bus. Renowned naturalist David Attenborough describes it as a “big carnivorous reptile” surpassing even the mighty T-Rex in size and ferocity.

Unveiling the Ancient Giant

Due to its weight, the fossilized jaw proved challenging to lift. Phil Jacobs and paleontologist Steve Etches returned with a drone to relocate the find. Subsequently, a team of daring paleontologists and climbers was assembled to excavate the site. Suspended from ropes on the cliffside, they uncovered not just the jaw but an almost complete pliosaur skull.

Perils of the Excavation

The extraction, although thrilling, posed significant risks. The cliffs of the “Jurassic Coast” are sheer, crumbling, and unsafe, demanding careful navigation. The skull, an impressive 6 feet and 5 inches long, boasted 130 razor-sharp teeth, hinting at the predatory prowess of this ancient sea giant.

Pliosaurs: Apex Predators of the Jurassic Seas

The excavation of the pliosaur fossil required meticulous work along the cliffs of England’s “Jurassic Coast.” Source: Sondakika

Pliosaurs, the apex predators of their time, wielded a bite force estimated at a staggering 33,000 newtons — double that of a saltwater crocodile, the most potent bite among living animals. Dr. Andre Rowe of Bristol University draws parallels, likening the pliosaur to an underwater T. rex, capable of preying on anything in its domain.

Insights from the Skull

The pliosaur’s skull, adorned with small indents on its snout, suggests the presence of glands for detecting changes in water pressure, aiding in hunting. Additionally, a parietal third eye, similar to contemporary reptiles, bestowed the creature with light sensitivity for navigating the murky waters it called home.

A Cinematic Discovery

Sir David Attenborough and Dr. Steve Etches are analyzing the pliosaur’s skull.
Source: NY Times

This monumental find will be featured in the upcoming David Attenborough documentary, “Attenborough and the Giant Sea Monster,” premiering on BBC on New Year’s Day 2024. The film documents the challenging excavation and delves into the life of this Jurassic sea monster.

The Race Against Erosion

Dr. Steve Etches believes more of the pliosaur’s remains lie within the cliffs of the Jurassic Coast. Erosion poses a significant threat, with the cliff line receding rapidly. Etches emphasizes the urgency, deeming it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity before the rest of the pliosaur is lost to the sea.

Conclusion

The discovery of the pliosaur skull on the Jurassic Coast unveils a captivating chapter in paleontological history. The colossal sea monster, with its unparalleled size and predatory adaptations, offers a glimpse into the mysteries of prehistoric oceans.

FAQs

  1. What is a pliosaur? The pliosaur is a prehistoric sea reptile that dominated the Jurassic seas, known for its colossal size and carnivorous nature.
  2. How did they excavate the pliosaur skull? A team of paleontologists and climbers carefully unearthed the skull suspended from ropes on the treacherous cliffs of the Jurassic Coast.
  3. Why is the discovery considered significant? The pliosaur skull is one of the most complete ever found, potentially representing a new species and shedding light on the ancient marine ecosystem.
  4. What dangers did the excavation team face? The cliffs of the Jurassic Coast posed significant risks, with sheer and crumbling rock formations, making the extraction a perilous endeavor.
  5. What is the urgency in retrieving the remaining pliosaur remains? Erosion threatens the cliff line, and Dr. Steve Etches emphasizes the time-sensitive nature of preserving this unique paleontological find.

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