Back in 2009, researchers had become quite excited about Predator X, an immense, big-headed marine reptile that was supposed to have a bite four times stronger than Tyrannosaurus rex. Now six years after the initial discovery, the pliosaur has finally been named Pliosaurus funkei.
The researchers published their findings in the Norwegian Journal of Geology. The apex predator was discovered six years ago, and paleontologists Espen Knutsen, Patrick Druckenmiller and Jørn Hurum uncovered two big specimens between 2004 and 2012. The short-necked, large-mawed, four-paddled marine reptiles’ fossils were discovered on Svalbard, an Arctic island. Before this, paleontologists had only uncovered part of a tail vertebra.
The regular freeze-thaw cycles at Svalbard severely fragmented the skeletons, and the fossils were further degraded in the lab as they dried. PMO 214.135 consists of jaw fragments, some vertebrae from the neck and back, and elements of the right forelimb. The larger specimen, PMO 214.136, includes bones from the back of the skull, vertebrae and some unidentified bones.
Due to the incomplete nature of both specimens, it was difficult to estimate the size of these animals, but they were initially estimated at about 50 feet long. The paper actually reveals that the skull would have been between six and eight feet long for the larger specimen and between five and six and a half feet long for the smaller one. Using vertebrae measurements, the body lengths were estimated at 33 to 42 feet.
Without complete P. funkei skeletons, it will be difficult to know whether this species was any larger than estimated. It’s no longer considered as the largest of all marine predators, instead it is now considered one of the largest pliosaurs described so far.
No actual bite force analysis could be complete due to the lack of a complete skull.
Reference: “A new species of Pliosaurus (Sauropterygia: Plesiosauria) from the Middle Volgian of central Spitsbergen, Norway” by Espen M. Knutsen, Patrick S. Druckenmiller and Jørn H. Hurum, 2012, Norwegian Journal of Geology.