The body of an enormous 150-million-year-old sea monster could be hidden under British cliffs, and time is running out to uncover it.
The seven-foot-long head of the pliosaur, which has been described as an “underwater T. Rex”, has already been discovered, complete with 130 razor-sharp teeth.
Now, the paleontologist that found the skull is hoping to find the rest of its body nestled into the rock where it was discovered. It is estimated to be up to 39 feet long.
The coastline is rapidly retreating in this area, up to a foot a year, and this could threaten the specimen’s integrity if it starts falling from its 50-foot-high resting place.
” “I bet my life that the rest of this animal is still there,” said Steve Etches, the palaeontologist who discovered the skull. Told BBC News .
“And it won’t be very long before the rest of the pliosaur drops out and gets lost. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said.
Etches first uncovered the fossil after his friend and fellow fossil enthusiast, Phil Jacobs, found the skull’s snout on a beach in Dorset in the UK. Drone footage revealed the rest of the fossil was peaking out of the cliff above, almost 50 feet in the air.
After several months of digging, Etches found the skull. He identified the dinosaur as a pliosaur, a 30 to 39-foot-long predator with four fins that would allow it to move quickly in the water and pounce on passing prey.
” The animal was so large that it could have preyed on any unfortunate creatures that were in its vicinity, said Andre Rowe of Bristol University, UK.
“I have no doubt that this was sort of like an underwater T. Rex,” Rowe said.
Etches’ specimen is “very likely a new species,” Judyth Sassoon, an expert on pliosaurs at the University of Bristol, told New Scientist.
The skull’s crest could suggest that this specimen was not fully grown when it died, per Sassoon.
Etches believes there’s more to the beast lurking in the rock. Vertebrae pointing out of the back of the skull suggests the rest of the pliosaur’s body could still be intact, ready to be uncovered.
Etches’ discovery will be the subject of a new BBC documentary presented by David Attenborough due to air on the UK’s BBC One on New Year’s Day and on PBS on February 14.