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Keywords:

  • Plesiosauria;
  • Pliosauroidea;
  • Pliosauridae;
  • Pliosaurus;
  • Kimmeridge Clay;
  • Upper Jurassic;
  • palaeopathology

Abstract:  Complete skulls of giant marine reptiles of the Late Jurassic are rare, and so the discovery of the 1.8-m-long skull of a pliosaur from the Kimmeridge Clay Formation (Kimmeridgian) of Westbury, Wiltshire, UK, is an important find. The specimen shows most of the cranial and mandibular anatomy, as well as a series of pathological conditions. It was previously referred to Pliosaurus brachyspondylus, but it can be referred reliably only to the genus Pliosaurus, because species within the genus are currently in need of review. The new specimen, together with another from the same locality, also referred to P. brachyspondylus, will be crucial in that systematic revision, and it is likely that the genus Pliosaurus will be found to include several genera. The two Westbury Pliosaurus specimens share many features, including the form of the teeth, but marked differences in the snout and parietal crest suggest sexual dimorphism; the present specimen is probably female. The large size of the animal, the extent of sutural fusion and the pathologies suggest this is an ageing individual. An erosive arthrotic condition of the articular glenoids led to prolonged jaw misalignment, generating a suite of associated bone and dental pathologies. Further damage to the jaw joint may have been the cause of death.