The most amazing animals inhabited the sea during the Mesozoic Era. These monsters of the deep were the stuff of legends (and nightmares)! Fearsome marine predators used speed and agility to snatch their prey from tropical blue waters. Rows of sharp teeth were perfectly designed to rip and tear flesh.

Voting for Marine Predators has now concluded.

Ichthyosaurs finished first with 37% of the vote.

Pliosaurs

Pliosaurs are the most fearsome predator in the fossil record of the Jurassic Coast. Propelled through the water by four paddle-like flippers, they were surprisingly quick and agile. These monstrous marine reptiles would have hunted EVERYTHING else swimming in the water.

pliosaur mark witton
Pliosaur sketch. © Mark Witton.

Ichthyosaurs

Fast and agile predators that snatched fish and other prey from the Jurassic sea. These marine reptiles resembled modern-day dolphins.

The largest ichthyosaur, Temnodontosaurus, was longer than a car. The first complete ichthyosaur was discovered by Mary and Joseph Anning at Lyme Regis.

Temnodontosaurus ichthyosaur mark witton
Sketch of ichthyosaur - Temnodontosaurus. © Mark Witton

Plesiosaurs

One of the most bizarre marine reptiles, scientists know very little about the lives of these creatures. Plesiosaurs are easily identified by their long necks although we can only guess what they were for!

These marine carnivores ate fish, ammonites and squid but may have also scavenged the seafloor. The first plesiosaur was found on the Jurassic Coast at Lyme Regis by Mary Anning.

plesiosaur mark witton
Plesiosaur sketch. © Mark Witton

Sharks

The prehistoric ancestors of sharks that swim in our modern oceans. Growing over two metres in length, a powerful tail meant sharks were capable of short bursts of speed.

Hybodus sharks were versatile predators that could hunt different types of prey including fish and squid. A sharp, barbed spike next to the dorsal fin would have helped to deter attackers.

Hybodus shark sketch Mark Witton
Hybodus shark sketch. © Mark Witton

Crocodiles

Prehistoric crocodiles inhabited the rivers and lagoons of Dorset during the Cretaceous. Crocodiles would have spent a lot of time in water but were semi-aquatic and could crawl on to land.

Scientists believe these creatures are the ancestors of modern crocodiles as they are remarkably similar. Crocodiles were ambush predators, preying on fish or unsuspecting animals grazing on the riverbank.

Goniopholis crocodile mark witton
Sketch of crocodile - Goniopholis. © Mark Witton.