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It is estimated to have lived approximately 147 million years ago. Using Liopleurodon, another large pliosaurid, as a guide, a specimen found in the Svalbard islands of northern Europe has been estimated to have been 15 metres (49 ft) long, 45,000 kilograms (99,000 lb) in weight and had teeth 30 centimetres (12 in) long.The specific name is derived from βραχυς, brachus, meaning "short" and σπόνδυλος, spondylos, meaning "vertebra" in Ancient Greek.

portentificus, are known exclusively from immature individuals.

brachyspondylus, with CAMSM J.35991 as the new neotype, because both specimens and possibly the lost holotype are from the same locality and horizon, and similar in size.

CAMSM J.35991 is much more complete and can be distinguished from all other species of Pliosaurus.

The specimen was collected at the Westbury Clay pit, Wiltshire, from subdivision E4 of the Aulacostephanus eudoxus ammonite zone, seven metres below the Crussoliceras Limestone of the Kimmeridge Clay Formation, dating to the late Kimmeridgian. brachyspondylus, the dorsal surface of the surangular lacks any fossa, and in contrast to all other specimens of Pliosaurus faces dorsally, not inclined to face dorsolaterally. carpenteri also possesses a unique combination of characters, including: low dentary alveolar count including only 18 postsymphysial alveoli, and a total count of 27; intermediate low count of syphysial alveoli including only 9; teeth fully trihedral, possessing a flat, anteroposteriorly broad labial surface lacking enamel ridges; mediolateral expansion of caniniform regions of the premaxilla and maxilla relatively pronounced, although this might be due to crushing; six closely spaced premaxillary alveoli; anisodont premaxillary dentition; diastema present between maxillary and premaxillary alveolar rows; premaxilla–parietal suture located level with the anterior region of the orbit; cervical centra lacking ventral ridge; and epipodials with highly convex proximal surfaces. funkei is known from two partial skeletons, the holotype PMO 214.135 and the referred PMO 214.136, from the Svalbard archipelago of Norway.

Nicknamed "Westbury pliosaur II", it was first described by Sassoon et al. Housed at the University of Oslo Natural History Museum, the skeletons were found south of Sassenfjorden, from the southeast side of Mount Knerten, in the Arctic Spitsbergen island. The specific name honors Bjørn Funke, the discoverer of the holotype, and his wife May-Liss Knudsen Funke for volunteering in the paleontological collections at the Museum. funkei is represented by the anterior portions of the upper and lower jaws (including premaxillary and dentary teeth), one nearly complete cervical centrum and two partial cervical centra, three pectoral centra with neural arches, fifteen dorsal centra and eight neural arches, a complete right coracoid, numerous rib fragments and gastralia, and a complete right forelimb.

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However, because this spelling had been abandoned since Phillips (1871), Pliosaurus should be preserved according to Article 33.3.1 of the ICZN.