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Palaeontology

Skull of colossal prehistoric 'sea monster' found in Dorset cliffs

By T.K. Randall
December 11, 2023 · Comment icon 13 comments
David Attenborough with a pliosaur skull.
Sir David Attenborough stands next to the enormous pliosaur skull. Image Credit: BBC Studios
The impressive skull, which measures two meters in length, belonged to a particularly ferocious sea creature.
When it comes to prehistoric monsters, most people tend to think of Tyrannosaurus rex or any of the other large predatory dinosaurs that roamed the Earth tens of millions of years ago.

The prehistoric oceans, however, were home to their own menagerie of titanic meat-eating beasts.

One of these was the pliosaur - a gargantuan marine reptile that lived around 150 million years ago.

Measuring up to 15 meters in length, these huge creatures feasted upon various species of fish as well as sharks, ichthyosaurs and any dinosaurs that had the misfortune to venture too close.

Now, palaeontologists have succeeded in extracting a two-meter-long pliosaur skull from the cliffs of Dorset's Jurassic Coast in England. The specimen, which is remarkably well-preserved, will be the subject of a new Sir David Attenborough documentary due to air on the BBC on New Year's Day.
"It's one of the best fossils I've ever worked on," said palaeontologist Steve Etches. "What makes it unique is it's complete. Worldwide, there's hardly any specimens ever found to that level of detail."

Of particular note is the creature's teeth - all 130 of them.

Razor-sharp and with fine ridges designed to shear through flesh, they would have ensured a swift end to anything unlucky enough to find itself in the mouth of one of these colossal predators.

"The animal would have been so massive that I think it would have been able to prey effectively on anything that was unfortunate enough to be in its space," said Bristol University's Dr Andre Rowe.

"I have no doubt that this was sort of like an underwater T. rex."



Source: BBC News | Comments (13)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #4 Posted by Eldorado 4 months ago
It's co-produced by PBS so there's a good chance of it airing in the US.
Comment icon #5 Posted by kalon1701 4 months ago
The preservation oof the skull is stunning, I regularly collect on the Dorset coast, a find like this would be a joy. I expect many hours of prepping work was carried out on this beautiful specimen. 
Comment icon #6 Posted by Cho Jinn 4 months ago
Pliosaurs have long been overlooked as some of the most formidable predators ever.  Megalodon and, more recently Livyatan, have hogged the spotlight (they are larger).  The following recent article regarding a huge specimen, not as well preserved, from Abingdon does a good job of collecting large examples.  These are legitimate sea monsters. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016787823000378
Comment icon #7 Posted by Antigonos 4 months ago
It really is. Hopefully the rest of the body is also, if it’s there. 
Comment icon #8 Posted by Still Waters 3 months ago
I watched this last night, it was totally fascinating and I highly recommend it. 
Comment icon #9 Posted by Still Waters 3 months ago
The skull of a colossal sea monster that was unearthed from the Jurassic Coast is going on display. The 2m-long fossil belongs to a pliosaur - one of the most fearsome predators the planet has ever seen. Sir David Attenborough investigated the discovery in a BBC film which aired on New Year's Day. The public can see the 150-million-year-old marine reptile at the Etches Collection in Kimmeridge in Dorset, close to where the beast was found. The rest of its skeleton may still be entombed in the crumbling cliffs. The hope is it may eventually be recovered. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-e... [More]
Comment icon #10 Posted by Still Waters 3 months ago
Calls for reptile star of Attenborough hit to be named after man who found it A campaign has been launched to have a reptile that starred in Sir David Attenborough’s latest blockbuster documentary named after the amateur fossil hunter who found it, after complaints he was “airbrushed” from the BBC show. Attenborough and the Giant Sea Monster, which won widespread acclaim, has been criticised for only mentioning the finder of the pliosaur skull, Philip Jacobs, in the credits at the end of the programme. Jacobs said he was appalled, complaining on his Facebook page: “I’ve been complete... [More]
Comment icon #11 Posted by Still Waters 2 months ago
Latest: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-dorset-68349380
Comment icon #12 Posted by Antigonos 2 months ago
  Great news, thank you for the update.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Still Waters 9 days ago
The skull of a prehistoric sea monster found on the Jurassic Coast has made it into the world record books. The 2m-long (6ft) skull of a pliosaur, excavated from high above a beach in Dorset, was the subject of a BBC film presented by Sir David Attenborough. Guinness World Records confirmed it was the "most complete" of its type on the planet. It said it was about "95% complete by surface area", with "previously unobservable details" of the genus. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-dorset-68734920


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