180-million-year-old ichthyosaur fossil found in UK last year, dubbed “one of the greatest finds in British paleontological history”
British paleontologists have unearthed the fossils of a giant prehistoric ‘sea dragon’ known as the ichthyosaur. The 32-foot (9.8-meter) skeleton is believed to be the largest and most complete set of fossils found in the country.
The specimen, which was found at the bottom of a tank last year, has been described as a “Truly unprecedented discovery” and “one of the greatest discoveries in British paleontological history.” The animal’s six-foot-tall skull alone was weighed to a ton.
Ichthyosaurs, commonly referred to as “sea dragons” because of their large teeth and eyes, first appeared around 250 million years ago and swam in the seas during the dinosaur era. become extinct about 90 million years ago. This particular animal lived around 180 million years ago.
Although often mistakenly categorized as swimming dinosaurs, these carnivorous marine reptiles would have evolved from unknown land reptiles long before the emergence of the first dinosaurs. Typically resembling dolphins in body shape, the larger species of ichthyosaur could grow to over 65 feet in length.
The specimen is believed to belong to a species called Temnodontosaurus trigonodon, but testing will reveal whether it may have been a member of a still-unknown branch. It was discovered during landscaping work in February 2021. A lagoon on the Rutland Water reservoir was then drained and dug in September.
“When paleontologists and our team discovered the complete skeleton and lifted it up using a tractor with a loader, the head was as big as me and I’m six feet tall. It is a formidable beast, Joe Davis, whose team found the specimen, told the Daily Mail.
Davis, an environmentalist with Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, said the team initially had “I thought the ridges we saw at the muddy bottom of the reservoir were probably just pipes.” But Dean Lomax, an ichthyosaur expert who worked on the excavation of the fossil, described it as “one of the greatest discoveries in British paleontological history.”
Qualify the UK as “Birthplace of ichthyosaurs”, Lomax told the BBC that animal fossils were “Unearthed here for more than 200 years”, and confirmed that Rutland’s specimen was the largest found in the country to date.
In the 1970s, two incomplete skeletons of much smaller specimens were discovered during the construction of the Rutland Reservoir.
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