Gigantic fossils of ‘Predator X’ found in the Arctic

Monday, February 14, 2011

A massive pliosaur has been found in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. The creature’s estimated bite was over 10 times more powerful than that found in any modern animal – and four times the bite of a T-Rex

The giant fossilised Jurassic-era marine reptile was found on the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. The sea monster, nicknamed “Predator X”, is a 15-metre-long pliosaur with enormous jaws. The power of its bite would make even T-Rex look feeble, as reported by Reuters quoting scientists from the Natural History Museum of Oslo University.

“With a skull that's more than 10 feet long you'd expect the bite to be powerful, but this is off the scale,” said Joern Hurum, an associate professor of vertebrate paleontology who led the international excavation in 2008.

Pliosaurs are carnivorous marine reptiles from the Jurassic and Cretaceous eras. Some of their species appear to be the largest marine reptiles to have ever existed
The Museum’s scientists reconstructed the predator’s head and, with the help of colleagues from Florida State University, estimated the bite power by comparing it with the similarly-shaped jaws of alligators. Their results were astonishing: “The calculation is one of the largest bite forces ever calculated for any creature,” they said.

Predator X's bite was over 10 times more powerful than in any modern species of shark, crocodile or alligator. Moreover, it was four times the bite of the famous T-Rex – a giant terrestrial meat-eating dinosaur.

The scientists reconstructed the reptile, which belongs to a new species of pliosaur, from a partial skull and 20,000 fragments of skeleton. It had impressive 30cm-long teeth and a body weight of approximately 45 metric tons. Being similar in length to the largest pliosaur species to date found on Svalbard in 2007, Predator X is distinguished by having larger bones.

The scientists believe that the first fossilised pliosaur was big enough to chomp on a small car. Predator X could more likely crush a Hummer, said Dr. Harum, referring to General Motors' massive 4x4.

Unlike its enormous body size, the pliosaur had a small brain shaped like that found in a great white shark, as revealed by Patrick Druckenmiller of the University of Alaska.

Pliosaurs are closely related to plesiosaurs and are characterized by having a much shorter neck and elongated head. Both had four huge flippers to propel themselves. Different species ranged in length from 4 to 15 metres, preying on squid-like animals, fish, and other marine reptiles, including ichthyosaurs and other plesiosaurs.


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