Sea Monsters of the Ancients Image Gallery

30th December, 2021.      //   General Interest  // 

Pliosaurus funkei, a 40-foot (12-meter) long marine reptile, has been officially named, according to scientists writing in the Norwegian Journal of Geology on Oct. 12, 2012.
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In 2006, scientists unearthed two massive pliosaur skeletons in Svalbard, Norway, a string of islands halfway between Europe and the North Pole. The giant creatures, one of which was dubbed Predator X at the time, looked slightly different from other pliosaurs discovered in England and France over the last century and a half.
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Before being transported from the site, the massive fossils had to be cast in plaster.

“They were the top predators of the sea,” said Patrick Druckenmiller, a paleontologist at the University of Alaska Museum and study co-author. “They had teeth that would have made a T. rex whimper,” said Druckenmiller (right), who worked with colleagues Espen M. Knutsen and Jrn H. Hurum, both of the Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, on the pliosaur specimens.

Killer instinct
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The new species likely lived about 145 million years ago and ate plesiosaurs, related long-necked, small-headed reptiles. Here the nearly 50-ton (45-tonne) pliosaur attacks a plesiosaur.

The end
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Pliosaurus funkei had a bite four times as powerful as Tyrannosaurus rex; in this artist’s conception, the powerful pliosaur crushes down on a plesiosaur with its 33,000-pound bite.

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The species was estimated to be larger than the world’s largest extant apex predator, the killer whale, which reaches a maximum length of 30 feet (9 meters). (Size comparisons with a killer whale, blue whale, and human diver are shown here.)

Clean-up crew
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The Pliosaurus funkei fossils were just two of nearly 40 specimens discovered at the Svalbard site. In the Oct. 12 issue of the Norwegian Journal of Geology, the authors also describe two new ichthyosaurs (dolphinlike reptiles), the longest-necked Jurassic-era plesiosaur on record, and several invertebrates. Here, an artist’s interpretation of ichthyosaurs feeding on a carcass of a plesiosaur.

Quick catch
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Artist’s interpretation of the huge pliosaur catching a pterosaur.

Fair game
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Artist’s interpretation of “Predator X” catching a smaller plesiosaur.

Predator X
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The new analysis shows P. funkei had proportionally longer front paddles than other pliosaurs, as well as slightly different vertebrae shape and different spacing of teeth within the jaw.

Plesiosaur
Dolphinlike reptiles called plesiosaurs also swam these ancient seas.
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