The fossilised skull of a giant sea monster measuring up to 16 metre (52 feet) in length has been discovered off the south coast of England. Weighing up to 12 tonnes, the ferocious pliosaur roamed the oceans 150 million years ago, reports The Mail, London.
The skull is 2.4 metre (7.9 feet) long, and experts say it could belong to one of the largest pliosaurs ever found: a beast that would have measured 10-16metre (33-52 feet) long.
The fossilised skull of a 16m pliosaur - one of the biggest of its kind - has been found off the Dorset coast
It was discovered by a local collector on the Jurassic Coast, Dorset, and has now been purchased by Dorset County Council using money from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It will be scientifically analysed, prepared and then put on public display at Dorset County Museum.
Palaeontologist Richard Forrest told the BBC: 'I had heard rumours that something big was turning up. 'But seeing this thing in the flesh, so to speak, is just jaw dropping. It is simply enormous.'
Pliosaurs were similar to plesiosaurs, a group of giant acquatic reptiles which lived around the same time that dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
They had short necks and huge, crocodilian-like heads containing powerful jaws and a set of razoe-sharp teeth.
Using four paddle-like limbs to propel their bulky bodies through the water, they preyed on dolphin-like icthyosaurs and even other plesiosaurs.
Pliosaurs ruled the oceans 150 million years ago and would have dwarfed the T Rex
David Martill, a palaeontologist from the University of Portsmouth, said: 'They had massive big muscles on their necks, and you would have imagined that they would bite into the animal and get a good grip, and then with these massive neck muscles they probably would have thrashed the animals around and torn chunks off.
'It would have been a bit of a blood bath.'
Based on the length of the skull, scientists estimate the creature would have measured between 10m and 16m from tip to tail. This means it could rival recent finds made in Svalbard, where beasts dubbed 'The Monster' and 'Predator X' were thought to have measured 15m and in Mexico, where the 'Monster of Aramberri' was discovered in 2002 and believed to have been of a similar size.
Dr Martill added: 'We only have the head, so you cannot be absolutely precise. 'But it may be vying with the ones found in Svalbard and Mexico for the title of the world's largest.'
Pliosaurs had powerful neck muscles and rows of razor-sharp teeth
The fossil is still in its rocky, unprepared form, but has been remarkably well preserved. Mr Forrest said: 'Pliosaur skulls are very big, but not that robust in general, and you tend to find them crushed flat - completely "pancaked".
'What is fantastic about this new skull, not only is it absolutely enormous, but it is pretty much in 3D and not much distorted. 'I could have taken a human in one gulp; in fact, something like a T Rex would have been breakfast for a beast like this.'
The fossil was discovered along the Jurassic Coast, a 95-mile stretch of coastline between Dorset and East Devon that spans 185 million years of geological history. The exact location is not being revealed, as Dorset County Council does not want to encourage people to head to the spot because it is unstable and probe to rock falls and landslides.
Richard Edmonds, the council's earth science manager, said: 'This part of the coastline is eroding really rapidly and that means the fossils that are trapped and buried are constantly tumbling out on to the beach. 'It was an amazing effort.'
The rest of the pliosaur could still be buried inside the rock, but could take decades to emerge. The council is now meeting with experts to discuss how best to study and prepare the fossil, the Mail report said.