Wednesday, March 18, 2009

'Predator X', more fearsome than than the T. Rex, terrorized the seas 147 million years ago

It was 50-feet long, weighed 45 tons and brandished jaws that would make the meanest Great White shark look like a guppy.

An international team of paleontologists Monday unveiled the partial skull of "Predator X", a recently discovered species of pliosaur, which ruled the seas 147 million years ago.

The prehistoric predator terrorized its prey with "the most powerful bite ever recorded in any fossil or any living creature," Dr. Jørn Hurum, the team leader, told the Daily News by phone from Oslo.

Consulting an expert on alligators at Florida State University, Hurum's team calculated that the dinosaur's jaws packed a bite with 33,000 pounds of force - four times that of the Tyranosaurus Rex.

"We've got really a bad animal here," Hurum said. "It's like putting a turbo gear on the biggest Great White in the ecosystem."

The find, called the "jewel in the crown for paleontologists," was made on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard in northern Norway. Hurum said that's an area so cold that the 11-person team can only dig three to four weeks a year in the summer.

The skull was unearthed last July, but not made public until Monday.

The History Channel will be spotlighting the discovery on a documentary, "Predator X," airing March 29.

"When this thing lived...modern sharks were just beginning to evolve," said Steve Brusatte, a fossil/reptile researcher at the American Museum of Natural History. "So this thing and it's relatives filled that niche in the ocean - that giant predator at the top of the food chain."