Don’t go in the water:
The late Jurassic was a particularly interesting time on our planet. The climate was warmer on average than today, with no polar caps and a higher sea level. Geography consisted for the most part of one enormous ocean and one gigantic continent, Pangaea – although Pangaea was beginning to break up.
The therapsids and archosaurs had disappeared, but the land dwelling creatures were many and familiar to a generation of dinosaur lovers. Stegosaurs were present as were Allosaurs and Ceratosaurs. Pterosaurs filled the skies, but the age really belonged to the sauropods. Giants like Brachiosaurus, Diplodocus, Apatosaurus, Ultrasaurus and Supersaurus roamed the plains.
It was far too early for Tyrannosaurus rex or even Giganotosaurus to have begun their respective reigns of terror but that does not mean that one of the most fearsome predators yet to be discovered was not plying its trade, it is simply that this recently discovered pliosaur roamed the vast ocean of the late Jurassic, a threat to all that shared its environment.
Large specimens of Pliosaurs, which were not dinosaurs but rather a stocky, short necked form of marine reptile, had been known from examples of Kronosaurus and Liopleurodon, both of which could have reasonably topped 33 feet in length. But nothing prepared Norwegian paleontologist Dr. Jorn Hurum for the 50 foot long monster his expedition uncovered during a dig on the island of Svalbard during the summer of 2008.
Not yet assigned a species designation this leviathan has been dubbed “Predator X” for the time being and it richly deserves the sinister sounding appellation. Predator X, of which two specimens were found on the dig, was at least 50 feet long, making it the largest pliosaur yet discovered. It weighed in at a massive 99,000 pounds – nearly 45 tons. The mammoth jaws, nearly 10 feet in length were filled with strong dagger like teeth, the largest of which were a full 12” in length.
But although the overwhelming size of this ferocious predator is impressive, its speed and strength are even more amazing. It is estimated that the huge jaws could bite down at 33,000 pounds per square inch, the most powerful bite known at this time. This brutal power represents more than 11 times the bite force of any animal living today, and over 4 times the average estimated biting power of the largest T rex. Further, Predator X possessed 4 very large flippers, two of which, the fore pair were used to propel it through the water in normal swimming mode. When a burst of speed was required to ambush or overhaul unsuspecting prey the back pair joined in, giving Predator X the supercharge it required.
Predator X is not the largest marine reptile ever discovered. Larger Ichthyosaurs have been found - one notable specimen discovered in British Columbia in 1991 is a whopping 75 feet long – and the super shark Megalodon which is not a reptile approaches 70 feet, it is speculated that Predator X’s enormous jaws and teeth, powerful bite and ability to accelerate rapidly make it the more formidable predator.
Nor has the story ended with the findings in Svalbard. In October 2009 a specimen of Pliosaur was discovered on the Dorset coast in England, and while it is too soon to tell if this specimen is of identical species to Predator X, it is certainly of similar dimensions, perhaps even several feet longer.
So while the Tyrannosaurs and Velociraptors of the distant past get all the attention and cinematic glory, the most dangerous creature from the age of dinosaurs may not have been a dinosaur at all, but a marine reptile we currently know as Predator X.