By Andrew Shankster
Sharks. Fast and lethal predators of the sea, popularised in film and numerous nature documentaries, and often considered to be the top dogs of the ocean. But once upon a time, this was not true.
Millions of years ago it was reptiles that ruled the seas, and none were more impressive than the Pliosaurs (Fun Fact: Pliosaur means “More Lizard”, which I feel is the perfect answer to whenever you want to make a cool dinosaur film). And no Pliosaur is more impressive than Liopleurodon; and, given how they hunted sharks, the current owners of the “swimming doom machine” crown, they were impressive predators indeed!
VOTE NOW for Pliosaurs in our Jurassic Coast Big Five competition
But before we get into the nitty gritty details of a Leopleurodon it is important to make one thing clear about Pliosaurs. They are what’s commonly known as a “Wastebasket Taxon” which is the group that any Plesiosaurs or Pliosaurs which can not be positively identified get assigned to.
Top Three Fascinating Facts
- Liopleurodon fossils have been found in lengths ranging between five and twenty five metres, from excavation sites in England and Northern France dating back to the Middle Jurassic, the same historical period from when birds first started to evolve.
- Liopleurodon easily dwarf modern sperm whales, and were shown hunting carnivorous dinosaurs in episode three of BBC’s groundbreaking documentary Walking with Dinosaurs.
- The Liopleurodon’s diet, along with that of most other Pliosaurs, consisted of fish, squids and other marine reptiles, which includes fellow Pliosaurs!
A Surprising Fact
While researching this topic I stumbled upon the story of a specimen known as Predator X (you know when the specimen’s name is its role in nature that it’s pretty scary) discovered in Norway, featuring a two meter long skull that contained a bite power four times greater than a T-rex. I had always expected such a dominant aquatic predator to have a mighty bite but this takes the cake and the entire bakery.
Why should you vote for Pliosaurs?
Well why shouldn’t you? Gigantic marine reptiles, top predators of their age, extinct sea monsters who would not look out of place in a monster movie but most importantly? It’s such a great example of how everything back in prehistoric times was a totally different world. How many of us can imagine a world with oceanic predators bigger than some of the largest creatures we have around us?