Mass: 1000 to 1700 kg
Length: 5 - 7 m
Lived: 166.1 million years ago - 139.8 million years ago, from the Callovian section of the Middle Jurassic to the Kimmeridgian section of the Late Jurassic Period.
Speed: 10 km/h
Liopleurodon means soft side tooth. The genus name derives from Greek 'smooth'; 'Side' and 'Tooth'. It was a carnivorous marine reptile that lived about 160 million to 150 million years ago during the Middle Jurassic period. In 1873, 3 fossilized teeth were found in northern France, making it the first indication that this creature existed. It belonged to the crocodile-like order of the Plesiosaurs or Plesiosauria in the family of the Pliosaurs or Pliosauridae.
Discovery and species
The Frenchman Henri Emile Sauvage coined the term Liopleurodon after discovering three 7 cm long teeth in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, in 1873. In addition to finds in France, there were occurrences in Great Britain and Germany. The scientists assume about 5 species:
- Liopleurodon ferox (type) (ferox=wild), England, France
- Liopleurodon rossicus, Russia
- Liopleurodon grossouveri, France
- Liopleurodon macromerius, England and possibly Mexico
- Liopleurodon pachydeirus, England
The Liopleurodon ferox exhibited in Germany is present with its complete skeleton and is best documented in the Museum of Paleontology in Tübingen.
Size and weight
Liopleurodon ferox was first made public in 1999 when it appeared in an episode of the BBC television series Walking with Dinosaurs, which portrayed it as a giant 25m-long predator; this was based on very fragmentary remains and was considered an exaggeration for Liopleurodon. The largest known skeletons have a length of 10 m, but typical lengths are 5-7 m. The pictures of Liopleurodons suggest that they were very wild reptiles. They were about 6 to 7 m long and weighed about 2.5 tons.
Floating speed and acceleration
The last thing that makes this animal so scary is that the arrangement of its fins could accelerate it effortlessly. Four strong paddle-like limbs indicate that Liopleurodons were strong swimmers. Like all plesiosaurs, it has a four-fin drive mode. A floating robot study has shown that this mode allows a very good acceleration, although it is not particularly effective as a drive. This is a very useful feature for a predator lurking ambushed on its prey.
Some paleontologists believe it was in the water pretty quickly and may have been able to swim as fast as a shark – which is about 25 miles per hour. That's about five times faster than the fastest person can swim, 8.6 kilometers per hour. Fortunately, these animals are extinct long before humans came.
Arrangement of teeth
However, it was not only its large size that made this reptile dangerous.
It was also the fact that it had a 1.5 m long skull filled with razor-sharp teeth to crush flesh, bones and muscles. And since his skull was about 1/6 of his total size, it probably means that his bite was extremely powerful.
Direction of different odour
One of the most interesting facts about Liopleurodon, however, is that it might have been able to track down its prey with its sense of smell.
Investigations of the skull have shown that he could probably scan the water with his nostrils to determine the source of certain odors. If that's true, then this reptile would have been a great hunter.
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