Planet Earth

The "Ultimate Jurassic Predator" Could Crush a Hummer in Its Jaws

80beatsBy Eliza StricklandMar 17, 2009 9:06 PM
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On a Norwegian island within the Arctic Circle, researchers have unearthed the fossilized remains of a marine monster they call "Predator X." The 50-foot beast is a new species of pliosaur, and researchers say the enormous reptile

ruled the Jurassic seas some 147 million years ago.... "Its anatomy, physiology and hunting strategy all point to it being the ultimate predator – the most dangerous creature to patrol the Earth's oceans" [New Scientist],

the Natural History Museum at the University of Oslo said in a breathless press release. Predator X swept through the seas some 147 million years ago during the Jurassic Period, when dinosaurs walked the land. The creature swam with its four flippers, and relied on its crushing jaw power to bring down its prey--lead researcher Joern Hurum estimates that its had 33,000 pounds per square inch bite force. Says Hurum:

"With a skull that's more than 10 feet long you'd expect the bite to be powerful but this is off the scale.... It's much more powerful than T-Rex" [Reuters].

Hurum has said that a previously discovered fossil pliosaur was

big enough to chomp on a small car. He said the bite estimates for the latest fossil forced a rethink. "This one is more like it could crush a Hummer," he said [Reuters].

Hurum theorizes that the 45-ton predator feasted on fish and marine reptiles, including ichthyosaurs and long-necked plesiosaurs. Paleontologists dug up the partial skull and the fragmented skeleton of a giant pliosaur last summer on the island of Spitsbergen.

Fossil hunters get used to working in the heat and cold, the dry and wet, but even without counting the polar bears nosing around their dig, Spitsbergen posed unusual challenges. It has only a three-week window for excavating, from the end of July through much of August. That is after the warmth of a brief summer has thawed upper layers of the ground and before the onset of the round-the-clock darkness of Arctic winter [The New York Times].

A documentary about the expedition will be shown on the History Channel later this month. The researchers haven't yet given the new species a scientific name, and although they've described their findings at scientific conferences, they have yet to publish their work in a peer-reviewed journal--they say that will happen later this year. Related Content: DISCOVER: Jurassic Sea Monsters Image: Atlantic Productions

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