Tonawanda News

Web Extras

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
Web Extras
  • Screen shot 2013-08-08 at 10.10.12 AM.png VIDEO: Dead shark found in New York subway train

    A dead shark was spotted on a train headed to Queens. It was still wet and had blood in its mouth. The sighting coincides with Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.

    August 8, 2013 1 Photo 5 Stories

  • 0805-bees.jpg Ga. man survives more than 1,000 bee stings

    A Georgia man survived being stung more than 1,000 times by bees, which then attacked emergency responders who came to help, according to the man’s stepson.

    August 7, 2013 1 Photo 5 Stories

  • county-clean-fatberg-image.jpg Gross! 16.5-ton glob of fat removed from sewer system

    If you've ever wondered what happens when you ignore those warnings about pouring grease down the drain, residents of one London suburb have found the disgusting answer. It's a 16.5-ton, bus-sized glob of fat, known as a "fatberg."

    August 6, 2013 1 Photo 4 Stories

  • 0805-fiery-truck-crash.jpg Video shows semi truck going airborne, bursting into flames

    Amateur video captured a fiery crash in this Indiana town, when a semi truck went airborne over a highway interchange and burst into flames.

    August 6, 2013 1 Photo 3 Stories

  • iStock_000007205767XSmall.jpg Are growing pains real?

    Are growing pains real? If so, what causes them? And how do I make sure my kid never has them, because I really don't need another reason for screamy 3 a.m. wake-ups?

    August 6, 2013 1 Photo 5 Stories

  • screenshot best man.jpg VIDEO: Dying boy plays best man at parents' wedding

    Looking dapper in a tiny tan pinstripe suit and orange shirt, a 2-year-old boy with only weeks to live served as the best man for his parents' Pennsylvania wedding.

    August 6, 2013 1 Photo 5 Stories

  • Screen shot 2012-12-05 at 4.31.28 PM.png VIDEO: According to trainers dogs can drive too

    Three dogs in New Zealand have been taught to drive a car. After weeks of indoor training in how to change gear, brake and steer, the canines have finally been allowed behind the wheel of a real car - with a little help from their handlers.

    December 7, 2012 1 Photo

  • HEALTH EXERCISE51.jpg Compression garments: So, does tight mean right?

    It seems that you can't head to a gym or run down your favorite trail these days without finding someone wearing compression garments.

    December 6, 2012 1 Photo

  • earth-at-night.jpg VIDEO: NASA's night view of Earth

    Weeks of work went into collecting pictures of the entire planet to create a remarkable look at night on Earth.

    December 6, 2012 1 Photo

  • 1376693_51096520.jpg Hospital incentives help babies determine own birth dates

    The evidence has been in for some time. Scheduling births may be convenient for physicians, hospitals and expectant parents, but it generally isn't good for the health of mothers and children.

    December 6, 2012 1 Photo