|The fossilised skull of a colossal "sea monster" has been unearthed along the UK's Jurassic Coast. |
The ferocious predator, which is called a pliosaur, terrorised the oceans 150 million years ago. The skull is 2.4m long, and experts say it could belong to one of the largest pliosaurs ever found: measuring up to 16m in length.
The fossil, which was found by a local collector, has been purchased by Dorset County Council. It was bought with money from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and it will now be scientifically analysed, prepared and then put on public display at Dorset County Museum.
Palaeontologist Richard Forrest told the BBC: "I had heard rumours that something big was turning up. But seeing this thing in the flesh, so to speak, is just jaw dropping. It is simply enormous."
Pliosaurs were a form of plesiosaur, a group of giant aquatic reptiles that dominated the seas around the same time that dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
They had short necks and huge, crocodilian-like heads that contained immensely powerful jaws and a set of huge, razor-sharp teeth. Using four paddle-like limbs to propel their bulky bodies through the water, they made easy work of passing prey such as dolphin-like ichthyosaurs and even other plesiosaurs.
David Martill, a palaeontologist from the University of Portsmouth, said: "These creatures were monsters.
"They had massive big muscles on their necks, and you would have imagined that they would bite into the animal and get a good grip, and then with these massive neck muscles they probably would have thrashed the animals around and torn chunks off.
"It would have been a bit of a blood bath."
Experts think this latest discovery could represent one of the largest pliosaurs ever found.
Dr Martill said: "This thing is absolutely enormous. When I saw it, it really just hit me how big it was."
The fossil comprises a lower jaw and upper skull.