A Sea Monster from the Deep

By Lidia Goldberg.

The well-preserved skull of a gigantic Pliosaur, a prehistoric sea creature, was discovered on the beach in Dorset county, southern England. 150 million years ago, Pliosaur’s dominated ocean habitats while dinosaurs dominated land. It is not the first time a pliosaur fossil has been discovered, although this fossil is almost 3 million years younger than any others that have been found and in excellent condition.

The skull measures 6.6 feet long and weighs over 1,102 pounds. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Pliosaur’s once grew up to 50 feet in length. The skull of the carnivore was discovered in 2022, though its excavation and scientific investigation was a lengthy process.

When it was discovered by Philip Jacobs, the fossil was buried in a cliff, about 36 feet above the beach and 49 feet down from the top of the cliff.

After he discovered the snout, Jacobs notified his friend, Steve Etches, a local paleontologist. Because the jaw of the fossil was closed, Etches and Jacobs were “quite excited,” as it suggested that the fossil would be complete.

The excavation team worked for three weeks against the oncoming summer storms to retrieve the rare fossil.

Because it is in such good condition this discovery is a “freak of nature,” Etches says. “It died in the right environment, there was a lot of sedimentation,” he says. “So when it died and went down to the seafloor, it got buried quite quickly.”

A BBC documentary about the fossil, titled “Attenborough and the Jurassic Sea Monster,” with naturalist Sir David Attenborough, will air on February 14, 2024, on PBS.

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