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Last updated at 10:18 GMT, Tuesday, 03 November 2009

Jurassic fossil discovery

Summary

2 November 2009

A 150-million-year-old fossilised skull belonging to a creature called a pliosaur has been unearthed along the Jurassic Coast in Dorset in England.

Reporter:
Rebecca Morelle

Jaw bone of a fossilised pliosaur

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Report

While dinosaurs roamed the land, pliosaurs terrorised the oceans. These giant, crocodile-shaped creatures were fearsome hunters, their immense jaws and razor-sharp teeth made easy work of passing prey. Now an 8ft-long skull has been found in Dorset by a local fossil collector. And scientists say it could be one of the biggest ever found, belonging to a creature that would have measured up to 50ft long. Palaeontologist Richard Forrest has been examining the specimen.

Richard Forrest: 'To get a whole skull like this is like Christmas and Easter and everything rolled into one, because we actually can see, yes this really was an absolutely enormous animal, and realistically, probably the most powerful predator that ever lived.'

The fossilised skull has now been bought by Dorset County Council using Heritage Lottery Funds. They plan to eventually put it on public display.

Rebecca Morelle, BBC News

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Vocabulary

terrorised the oceans

frightened sea creatures and fed on them

fearsome hunters

frightening creatures which look for, chase and kill other

passing prey

animals which were swimming along and which the pliosaurs could catch and eat

skull

the bones of the head which give the head its shape

a local fossil collector

someone whose hobby it is to dig for and find fossils (bones, shells or the shapes of plants or animals which have been preserved in rock for a very long time) in the area near where they live

palaeontologist

person whose job is to study fossils as a way of getting information about the history of life on Earth

specimen

example (here, this particular fossil)

is like Christmas and Easter and everything rolled into one

is a very good or happy time (in the Christian calendar, both Chirstmas and Easter are happy times of celebration)

predator

animal that hunts, kills and eats other animals

on public display

available for members of the public to see