The small fragments of bone are spread out on a workbench in tiny pieces that could fit into a matchbox, betraying the size of their owner: a fearsome sea predator considered the Tyrannosaurus Rex of the oceans.
… a pliosaur, a reptile that swam the oceans 150 million years ago and was so big it could swallow a grown man in a single gulp. [note: there were no people living at that time -gtl]
Bits of pliosaur fossils have previously been found in Germany, Britain and Argentina, but never have as many been found as this summer in the Svalbard archipelago off northern Norway in the Arctic.
“It looks like the most complete one. We won’t know for sure until we excavate it but it looks very promising,” says Joern Hurum who led the Norwegian research team to the Svalbard, only a little more than 1,000 km from the North Pole.
The palaeontologists came upon the ‘treasure trove’ of fossils in August. Only the skull and a few vertebrae of the pliosaur were sticking out of the Arctic rocks in what was once the seabed, and further excavations will be carried out in August 2007 to find and, hopefully, recover the rest of the body.
… It measured about 10 metres in length, weighed 10 to 15 tonnes and – perhaps most importantly – had a hundred teeth, some as big as a cucumber.
“It’s like a sea lion with a crocodile skull in the front but it’s the size of a bus,” Hurum says. “It was the top sea predator at that time so really it ate anything it liked,” he said, comparing his “baby” to a Tyrannosaurus Rex, the king of dinosaurs which roamed the earth at the same time and both of which disappeared 65 million years ago.
…the reptile was a land animal before becoming a sea creature.