Giant sea monster pliosaur skull found on Jurassic Coast

BBC Studios

Sir David Attenborough stands next to the pliosaur fossil, about 2 meters (6.6 feet) long, at the Etches Collection in Kimmeridge in the county of Dorset in England.

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A remarkably well-preserved giant skull Pliosaura prehistoric sea monster was discovered in a shore In the county of Dorset in southern England, it can reveal secrets about these amazing creatures.

Pliosaurs dominated the oceans at a time when dinosaurs roamed the land. The discovered fossil is about 150 million years old, nearly 3 million years younger than any other pliosaur find. Researchers are analyzing the sample to determine if it could be a species new to science.

The fossil was originally spotted in the spring of 2022, and has now been detailed, along with complex excavations and ongoing scientific investigation, in the upcoming BBC documentary Attenborough and the Jurassic Sea Monster, presented by legendary naturalist Sir David Attenborough, which will be broadcast in February 14 on BBC. TV program.

Such was the sheer size of the carnivorous marine reptile that the skull, unearthed from a cliff along Dorset’s ‘Jurassic Coast’, was almost two meters (6.6 feet) long. In its fossilized form, the specimen weighs more than half a metric ton. Pliosaur species can grow up to 15 meters (50 feet) in length, according to the British Daily Mail. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Local paleontologist Steve Etches, who helped discover it, told CNN in a video call that the fossil was buried deep in the cliff, about 11 meters (36 feet) above the ground and 15 meters (49 feet) below the cliff.

Extracting it proved to be a risky undertaking, one fraught with danger as the crew raced against time during a period of good weather before approaching summer storms eroded the cliff, perhaps taking the rare and important fossil with it.

Etches first learned of the fossil’s existence when he was his friend Philip Jacobs contacted him after he came across a pliosaur’s snout on the beach. Etches said that from the beginning they were “very excited, because his jaws closed together indicating that (the fossil) was complete.”

After using drones to map the cliff and pinpoint the rest of the pliosaur’s exact location, Etches and his team embarked on a three-week operation, drilling into the cliff while suspended in the air.

“It’s a miracle that we were able to get this thing out, because we had one last day to get this thing out, which we did at 9:30 p.m.,” he said.

Etches undertook the painstaking task of restoring the skull. There was a time when he found it “very disappointing” as the clay and bone cracked, but “over the following days and weeks, it was like…, like a jigsaw puzzle, putting everything back in place. It took a long time but we were able to get everything back.” A piece of bone.

Etches added that it was a “freak of nature” that this fossil remained in such good condition. β€œIt died in the right environment, and there was a lot of sedimentation…so when it died and went to the bottom of the sea, it was buried very quickly.”

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BBC Studios

Sir David Attenborough presents the BBC documentary Attenborough and the Jurassic Sea Monster, which will be broadcast on February 14 on PBS.

The nearly intact fossil highlights the characteristics that made the pliosaur a truly fearsome predator, hunting prey such as A dolphin-like ichthyosaur. The predator with huge, sharp teeth used a variety of senses, including still-visible sensory pits in its skull that may have allowed it to detect changes in water pressure, according to the documentary.

The pliosaur’s bite was twice as powerful as that of the saltwater crocodile, which has the strongest jaws in the world today, according to Emily Rayfield, a paleontology professor at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom who appears in the documentary. She said that this predatory prehistoric marine animal was able to break into the car.

“The animal was so huge that I think it was able to prey on anything that was unfortunate enough to be in its space,” added Andre Roux, a postdoctoral research associate in paleobiology at the University of Bristol.

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