Researchers from the University of Southampton are set to appear in a new David Attenborough documentary by the BBC revealing the secrets of a predator which inhabited our seas at the same time as the dinosaurs. 

The natural history programme Attenborough and the Giant Sea Monster will air on BBC One at 8pm on New Year's Day and help viewers learn about the giant pliosaur, which existed about 150 million years ago. 

It follows Sir David Attenborough on a journey of discovery as he explores the fascinating story of an enormous marine reptile whose skull was found buried on the Dorset coast near Kimmeridge Bay.

Sir David speaks to top scientists across the UK as he unlocks clues about the creature’s past – from understanding how it looked and behaved, to uncovering the strategies it used to hunt and kill its prey.

His investigations led him to the µ-VIS X-ray Imaging Centre at the University of Southampton, where scientists use their highly sophisticated scanning technology to investigate the snout section of the fossilised skull.

The University played host to Sir David and a BBC production crew in the spring. They filmed as the engineers virtually stripped back layers of fossilised material to reveal the pliosaur snout and its internal structures, such as the teeth and nervous system.

Daily Echo: Dr Neil Gostling being interviewed by Sir David Attenborough

Dr Katy Rankin of µ-VIS and Associate Professor Dr Neil Gostling, a palaeobiologist at the University, were both interviewed by Sir David and feature in the documentary.

Dr Gostling said: “Sir David Attenborough is an absolute inspiration and one of the reasons I became a palaeobiologist, so meeting him was hugely exciting for me. The filming was fantastic and it was great to have the rare opportunity to talk to Sir David one-to-one and share knowledge of pliosaurs with someone who has such a passion for them.”

Sir David Attenborough said: “Pliosaurs were the biggest and most formidable hunters in the Jurassic seas, the marine equivalent, you might say of T. Rex.

“Frustratingly, skulls, which can tell us most about an animal, are only too easily smashed before fossilisation, but this one is virtually undamaged and promises to reveal all kinds of new details about these terrifying hunters that preyed on Lyme Regis’ better known ichthyosaurs.”

Daily Echo: The pliosaur skull

Attenborough and the Giant Sea Monster is the second BBC Natural History programme to feature the University’s µ-VIS X-ray Imaging Centre. In 2017, the Centre’s imaging capabilities virtually reconstructed the skeleton of a 200 million year old ichthyosaur for the documentary, Attenborough and the Sea Dragon.