The largest-ever sea dragon dinosaur fossil has been discovered in the UK.
The fossilised remains were discovered at Rutland Water Nature Reserve in February 2021 by Joe Davis, conservation team leader at Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust.
The sea dragons, which are similar in shape to dolphins, have previously been known to vary in size from 3ft to 82ft (1m to 25m).
However, this ichtyosaur skeleton was revealed as being 33ft (10m) in length.
Moreover, it is anticipated as being the country’s first Temnodontosaurus trigonodon, which is a specific species of ichthyosaur.
David discovered the fossil when the lagoon’s island was drained in the area’s re-landscaping, explaining:
The find has been absolutely fascinating and a real career highlight.
It’s great to learn so much from the discovery and to think this amazing creature was once swimming in seas above us.
Now, once again, Rutland Water is a haven for wetland wildlife albeit on a smaller scale.
Upon removing the skull and its clay encasing to conserve and study the fossil, it was discovered that the 6ft (2m) skull weighed a tonne simply on its own.
Palaeontologist Dr Dean Lomax, the head of the excavation team, has studied thousands of ichthyosaurs and noted what an ‘honour’ it was to lead the process.
Lomax, who described Britain as ‘the birthplace of ichthyosaurs’, stated:
Their fossils have been unearthed here for over 200 years.
Despite the many ichthyosaur fossils found in Britain, it is remarkable to think the Rutland ichthyosaur is the largest skeleton ever found in the UK.
Lomax concluded, ‘It is a truly unprecedented discovery and one of the greatest finds in British palaeontological history.’
It is hoped that the bones will be able to be displayed and protected near to where they were located, with funding being sought by the owners of the area, Anglian Water.
Academic papers are also expected to be published around the findings, following ongoing research by palaeontologists.
If you want to see more of the fossil, you can catch it on Digging for Britain on BBC Two, which airs tomorrow, Tuesday, January 11, at 8pm. It will also be available to catch on BBC iPlayer.
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