10-metre-long ‘air-breathing sea predator’ fossil found in UK reservoir

Posted by Anita Froneman on 11 January 2022

The largest and most intact ichthyosaur fossil ever found in the UK was recently uncovered in the country’s Rutland Water Nature Reserve and measures 10 metres long.

Joe Davis from the reservoir and his colleague noticed something sticking up out of the mud. ‘I worked out on the Hebrides [a Scottish archipelago], so I’ve found whale and dolphin skeletons before,’ Davis said to Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust. ‘This appeared similar and I remarked to Paul [his colleague] that they looked like vertebrae. We followed what indisputably looked like a spine and Paul discovered something further along that could have been a jawbone. We couldn’t quite believe it.’

Ichthyosaurs, air-breathing marine reptiles, are believed to have lived between 250 million and 90 million years ago.

An ichthyosaur fossil display at the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History in the US. Picture: James St. John/Flickr Commons

Dr Dean Lomax, a palaeontologist from Manchester University led the excavation effort. The discovery is ‘truly unprecedented and one of the greatest finds in British palaeontological history,’ he said to the BBC.

‘Usually we think of ichthyosaurs and other marine reptiles being discovered along the Jurassic coast in Dorset or the Yorkshire coast, where many of them are exposed by the erosion of the cliffs. Here at an inland location is very unusual.’

A representation of what ichthyosaurs could have looked like. Picture: Heinrich Harder/Wikimedia Commons

Davis added: ‘The find has been absolutely fascinating and a real career highlight, it’s great to learn so much from the discovery and to think that this amazing creature was once swimming in seas above us, and now once again Rutland Water is a haven for wetland wildlife albeit on a smaller scale!’

Learn more about the finding:

Picture: Screenshot from video


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