Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

Features

October 23, 2012

Giant reptile ruled the Jurassic seas

It's official: A giant marine reptile that roamed the seas roughly 150 million years ago is a new species, researchers say. The animal, now named Pliosaurus funkei, spanned about 40 feet and had a 6.5-foot-long skull with a bite four times as powerful as Tyrannosaurus rex.

"They were the top predators of the sea," said Patrick Druckenmiller, a paleontologist at the University of Alaska Museum and co-author of the study, published in the Oct. 12 issue of the Norwegian Journal of Geology. "They had teeth that would have made a T. rex whimper."

Combined with other fossil finds, the newly discovered behemoth skeletons of P. funkei paint a picture of a Jurassic-era ocean filled with giant predators.

In 2006, scientists unearthed two massive pliosaur skeletons in the Svalbard islands, halfway between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole. The giant creatures, one of which was dubbed Predator X at the time, looked slightly different from other pliosaurs discovered in England and France over the past century and a half.

Now, after years of painstaking analysis of the jaw, vertebrae and forelimbs, the researchers have determined that Predator X is a new species, and they have officially named it for Bjorn and May-Liss Funke, volunteers who discovered the fossils.

The pliosaurs, marine reptiles that prowled the seas 160 million to 145 million years ago, had short necks, tear-shaped bodies and four large, paddle-shaped limbs that let them "fly through the water," Druckenmiller said.

P. funkei probably ate plesiosaurs, a related species of long-necked, small-headed reptiles.

The new analysis shows that P. funkei had proportionally longer front paddles than other pliosaurs as well as a slightly different vertebrae shape and different spacing of teeth within the jaw, Druckenmiller said.

In 2008, scientists estimated that Predator X might have been up to 50 feet long. The current study suggests the creature is smaller than that but still about 10 feet bigger than the largest living apex predator — predators with no predators of their own — the killer whale, Druckenmiller said.

Text Only
Features
  • nws - bv070814 - muething RAA gave theater founder his start When John Leo Muething was 5 and living in Batesville, his three older siblings and parents, Dr. Steve and Meg Muething, starred in the Rural Alliance for the Arts production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” but, much to his dismay,

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • nws - bv070814 - jeffers West Point graduation Jeffers savors West Point experience Tom Jeffers, a 2010 Batesville High School graduate, recently graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. The Fort Sill, Oklahoma, resident is the son of former Batesville residents Tom and Kathleen Jeffers, Alexandria, Virginia,

    July 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • nws - bv062714 - STEM - sara bauer Students learn valuable STEM skills Two area students attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point’s Middle School STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Workshop June 2-5.Alexandra Cottingham, Batesville, daughter of Rebecca Krieger Cottingham and Michael Cottingham,

    June 27, 2014 2 Photos

  • nws - bv062014 - Eckstein family Cancer hits home for local family Cancer survivors and those who have lost their fight with the disease will be honored during the June 21-22 Ripley County Relay for Life. One local individual who will be remembered is Mark Eckstein, Batesville, who worked for the Batesville Water an

    June 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • nws - bv061314 - Wilson, Alex Wilson explores CIA and Ukraine Next month in Chicago, Alex Wilson will start working as an investment banking analyst at Bank of Montreal (BMO), doing financial analysis and modeling for a group within the Capital Markets division. The 2010 Batesville High School graduate just ear

    June 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • nws - bv060614 - Betts in Scotland Student helps mastermind museum exhibit Tomorrow Alex Betts, a 2009 Batesville High School graduate, will be standing at a museum door in England, welcoming his family (parents Bill and George Ann Betts and brothers Jairus, 19, and Arno, 14) to an exhibit he helped create. "Diving into Dur

    June 6, 2014 3 Photos

  • nws - bv051614 - McDonough speaking Detective recalls working with Princess Diana BROOKVILLE - Rich McDonough has had an exciting career as a private detective, working for various celebrities and political figures. He told the story about one of his most memorable clients, the late Princess Diana of Wales, on April 16 as part of

    May 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • nws - bv050214 - Kreinhop, Bertha with book Cancer battle recounted in book

    May 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • nws - bv041814 - Harley, Bill (entertaining) Students sing along with Harley

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • nws - bv032114 - sidell mission trip 1 Sidell helps people in Burkina Faso

    March 22, 2014 2 Photos