It is said to be "the most fearsome predator that ever lived," according to a BBC News report. It is a pliosaur, or "sea monster," and now its 2.4 meter-long skull has been unearthed and presented to the public. UPI reports that Naturalist and TV presenter David Attenborough unveiled the fossil to the public this past Saturday.
The 155-million-year-old fossil was accidentally discovered in Dorset, U.K. by local collector Kevan Sheehan, who told BBC News: "It was sheer luck - I was sitting on the beach, and saw three pieces. I had no idea what they were, but I proceeded to drag them back. Then over several years, I'd go back every year and find a new piece." According to The Guardian, Dorset county council has decided not to reveal the specific location of the find, since the area is prone to rock falls.
It is possible that the discovered creature may be a new species, or possibly even genus. Scientists estimate that the predator could have measured up to 18 meters from tip to tail. It is unclear whether this would make it the world's biggest sea monster, given that pieces of potentially larger specimens have been found across the world.
BBC News reports:
Looking somewhat like a crocodile on steroids, it is now easy to see the power of this "biting machine": pliosaurs, which lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods were the top predators of the oceans.
On show now are its eye sockets, perched upon the top of its head, revealing how it would have fixed its stare on any passing prey; the openings that held its it immensely powerful jaw muscles, allowing it to crunch down on anything that crossed its path; and the huge holes, running all the way down its snout, that contained its giant, razor-sharp teeth to help finish the meal off.
According to The Guardian, palaeontologist Richard Forrest was surprised by the discovery because pliosaur skulls are often found crushed flat. This one, on the other hand, is undistorted. And terrifying. "It could have taken a human in one gulp; in fact, something like a T-Rex would have been breakfast for a beast like this."
Forrest said, "It was probably the most fearsome predator that ever lived. Standing in front of the skull you can imagine this enormous beast staring straight back at you, fixing you with its binocular vision, and attacking. Just thinking about it raises the hairs on the back of your neck."
The fossil is now on public display at the Dorset County Museum.