Pliosaurids were a long-lived and cosmopolitan group of marine predators that spanned 110 million years and occupied the upper tiers of marine ecosystems from the Middle Jurassic until the early Late Cretaceous. A well-preserved giant pliosaurid skull from the Late Jurassic Kimmeridge Clay Formation of Dorset, United Kingdom, represents a new species, Pliosaurus kevani. This specimen is described in detail, and the taxonomy and systematics of Late Jurassic pliosaurids is revised. We name two additional new species, Pliosaurus carpenteri and Pliosaurus westburyensis, based on previously described relatively complete, well-preserved remains. Most or all Late Jurassic pliosaurids represent a globally distributed monophyletic group (the genus Pliosaurus, excluding ‘Pliosaurus’ andrewsi). Despite its high species diversity, and geographically widespread, temporally extensive occurrence, Pliosaurus shows relatively less morphological and ecological variation than is seen in earlier, multi-genus pliosaurid assemblages such as that of the Middle Jurassic Oxford Clay Formation. It also shows less ecological variation than the pliosaurid-like Cretaceous clade Polycotylidae. Species of Pliosaurus had robust skulls, large body sizes (with skull lengths of 1.7–2.1 metres), and trihedral or subtrihedral teeth suggesting macropredaceous habits. Our data support a trend of decreasing length of the mandibular symphysis through Late Jurassic time, as previously suggested. This may be correlated with increasing adaptation to feeding on large prey. Maximum body size of pliosaurids increased from their first appearance in the Early Jurassic until the Early Cretaceous (skull lengths up to 2360 mm). However, some reduction occurred before their final extinction in the early Late Cretaceous (skull lengths up to 1750 mm).
Benson RBJ, Evans M, Smith AS, Sassoon J, Moore-Faye S, et al. 2013. A Giant Pliosaurid Skull from the Late Jurassic of England. PLoS ONE. 8(5): e65989. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0065989
Pliosaurus kevani – the Weymouth Bay Pliosaur