Skull of giant 'sea monster' discovered

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The Independent Online

The fossilised skull of a giant "sea monster" has been discovered off the UK's Jurassic Coast, a local council announced.

The fossil comes from a pliosaur, a ferocious predator which lived in the oceans 150 million years ago.

The skull, which was discovered by a local collector off the Dorset coast, measures 2.4m in length and scientists believe the creature would have been 16m in length - one of the largest pliosaurs ever found.

The fossil was purchased by Dorset County Council for £20,000 with money from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

After it has been scientifically analysed and prepared, it will be put on display at the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester.

Pliosaurs were a form of plesiosaur, a group of giant aquatic reptiles which lived in the seas at around the same time dinosaurs roamed the Earth. They had short necks and huge, crocodilian-like heads that contained immensely powerful jaws and a set of huge, razor-sharp teeth.

They used four paddle-like limbs to propel their bulky bodies through the water, and would have preyed on dolphin-like ichthyosaurs and even other plesiosaurs.

David Martill, a palaeontologist from the University of Portsmouth, said: "These creatures were monsters. 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."

David Tucker, the council's museums adviser, said: "Our aim is to purchase fossils found along the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and to get them into local museums - we want to put really exceptional fossils in museums."

The council is meeting with experts to discuss how best to study and prepare the fossil.