A team of Polish paleontologists discovered the jaws and teeth of an ancient pliosaur, a marine reptile creature with jaws stronger than a Tyrannosaurus rex.
Pliosaurs were predators that populated the oceans during the Jurassic period, meaning they lived approximately 150 million years ago.
The recent discovery was made in a cornfield in the village of Krzyżanowice, Poland, in the middle of the Holy Cross Mountains. Along with the fossils of the giant carnivore, the team also unearthed hundreds of bones of creatures related to crocodiles, ancient turtles and plesiosaurs, which are related and similar to pliosaurs.
According to Daniel Tyborowski, lead study author and a paleontologist at the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Museum of the Earth in Warsaw, Jurassic pliosaur remains have been found in only a few places in Europe, but this is the first discovery of this kind made in Poland.
The fossil was discovered in a limestone block and dated back to around 150 million years ago. The biggest tooth found measures about 68 millimeters.
Tyborowski made a statement describing pliosaurs, in which he said: “They measured over 10 meters [32 feet] in length and could weigh up to several dozen tons. They had powerful, large skulls and massive jaws with large, sharp teeth. Their limbs were in the form of fins.”
Pliosaurs had enormous heads supported by powerful neck muscles that had the ability to crush the bones of prey.
One more widely-known species of pliosaur is Pliosaurus funkei. These animals had a 2 meters skull and its bite was a few times more powerful than that of T. rex. At the time, these predators were at the top of the food chain in the marine ecosystem, preying on crocodilians, plesiosaurs, turtles and more. To date, we have information on six plesiosaur species.
It is still unclear what species the newly found fossils belong to.
“We hope that the next months and years will bring even richer material in the form of bones of large reptiles,” Tyborowski declared.
More than 100 million years ago, this mountainous region was an archipelago of islands surrounded by warm lagoons, but the variety of Jurassic marine species at the mountain site also suggested that this area was a “hub” where the habitats of different groups of marine reptiles overlapped, the scientists reported.
Ancient turtles and crocodile relatives are known from Mediterranean sites; they inhabited warm waters in the Tethys Ocean, a vast sea that lay between two ancient supercontinents — Gondawna in the south and Laurasia in the north — during the Mesozoic period, 251 million to 65.5 million years ago. But pliosaurs, plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs (another type of marine reptile with long, slender jaws) are more commonly found in cooler waters farther north. Because the site in Krzyżanowice holds fossils from both warmer and cooler environments, the researchers proposed that it represents a transitional zone that was once a unique ocean ecosystem, according to the study.
The findings were published online Oct. 6 in the journal Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association