The remains of a 15 meter[1] long sea living predator has been found in Svalbard, an archipelago located about midway between mainland Norway and the North Pole. The animal, a species of pliosaur dubbed Predator X by the group of scientists who discovered it, lived in the ocean 147 million years ago during the Jurassic period.

45 ton pliosaur attacking a plesiosaur AtlanticZoo Jurassic sea monster discovered in Norway
Predator X hunting (Photo: Atlantic Productions)

The skull of Predator X is twice as big as the skull of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and researchers believe the jaws of this hunter could exert a pressure of 15 tonnes[2]. The weight of the live animal is estimated to be around 45 tonnes[3].

It is the largest sea dwelling animal ever found and as far as we know it is an entirely new species”, says palaeontologist Espen Madsen Knutsen[4] from the Olso University in Norway to Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

Knutsen is a part of the research team who dug out the skull and backbone of the creature during a two week long research expedition to Svalbard in June 2008. The remains were first discovered by Professor Jörn Hurum[5] from the Natural History Museum at Oslo University in 2007. Hurum noticed a piece of bone sticking up from the permafrost, but since it was the last day of the 2007 expedition the group was forced to leave the bone behind without any further investigation after having jotted down its GPS position.

Parts of the head and backbone was dug out during the abovementioned June 2008 expedition and together with an earlier find of a smaller specimen of the same species located just a few kilometres away, scientists have now managed to map together a good picture of what the live animal once looked like.

We haven’t unearthed a high number of parts yet, but the parts that we do have are important ones and this has made it possible for us to create an image of what Predator X once looked like”, says Knutsen.

flipping the jacket containing the fossil Jurassic sea monster discovered in Norway
The digg site (Photo: Atlantic Productions)

In the excavated area, palaeontologist have found roughly 20,000 bone fragments – the remains of at least 40 different sea dwelling Jurassic animals. Once you’ve started digging in this region, it is fairly easy to spot the bones since their pale colour contrasts sharply against the black earth of the Svalbard tundra. The main difficulty is instead the short dig period and the fact that much time is spent restoring the excavated area after each dig.

Each time we leave a dig site we have to restore the area. There can be no traces of our activities. This forces us to use half of our time digging up the same spot all over again when we return”, Kutsen explains.

Svalbard lies far north of the Arctic Circle and the average summer temperature is no more than 5°C (41°F), while the average winter temperature is a freezing −12 °C (10 °F). In Longyearbyen, the largest Svalbard settlement, the polar night lasts from October 26 to February 15. From November 12 to the end of January there is civil polar night, a continuous period without any twilight bright enough to permit outdoor activities without artificial light.

The team plans to return to Svalbard this summer to carry out more digging. They hope to find another specimen in order to make the skeleton more complete, and they also wish to unearth the remains of other animals that inhabited Svalbard at the same time as Predator X.

If you wish to learn more, you can look forward to the documentary shot by Atlantic Productions during the Svalbard excavations. The name of the documentary will be Predator X and the animal is actually named after the film, not the other way around. The film will be screened on History in the USA in May, Britain, Norway and across Europe later this year and distributed by BBC Worldwide.

pliosaur crushing down on plesiosaur AtlanticZoo Jurassic sea monster discovered in Norway
Pliosaur crushing down on Plesiosaur with 33,000lb bite force (Ill.: Atlantic Productions)

All the scientific results will be published in a full scientific paper later this year.

You can find more Predator X information (in English) at the Natural History Museum, University of Oslo:

[1] almost 50 feet

[2] over 33,000 lbs

[3] over 99,000 lbs

[4] Espen M. Knutsen, Natural History Museum, University of Oslo,, phone +47 930 373 96

[5] Jørn H. Hurum, Natural History Museum, University of Oslo,, phone +47 918 360 41