Especially, the East Midlands’ Jurassic clay recently revealed the well-preserved bones of a real-life sea dragon. It is, nevertheless, the largest and most complete ichthyosaur fossil yet discovered in the UK.
It was found by Joe Davis, Conservation Team Leader at Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, while draining a lagoon island at Rutland Water Nature Reserve in February 2021. The tiny bones were discovered lately by paleontologists.
The ichthyosaur fossil is the most important and complete discovered in the UK. When elevated for conservation and research, the 6ft (2m) skull and surrounding mud weighed a ton.
Dr. Dean Lomax, the paleontologist who conducted the Rutland Sea Dragon excavation, said:
“It was an honor to dig this Jurassic colossus out of its stone tomb.” The first ichthyosaur fossils were found in Britain over 200 years ago by Mary Anning along the Jurassic Coast.
And it’s not simply the biggest ichthyosaur skeleton ever found in the UK. Dinosaurs are included!”
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime discovery,” Lomax added. “This discovery is comparable to finding a whole Tyrannosaurus rex in the Badlands of America, and only this Jurassic monster was unearthed in a nature reserve in Rutland!”
The excavation and gathering of the fossil took over 14 days of effort and a lot of expertise. The researchers had to meticulously document the fossil before using photogrammetry to create a 3D reconstruction.
The English scientist Mary Anning discovered Ichthyosaurs in the early 19th century. As well, they lived in the oceans from 250 million years ago to 90 million years ago. Especially, Jurassic clay samples from the newly discovered fossil place the animal between 181.5 and 182 million years old.
Although several ichthyosaur species lived in the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous eras, paleontologists cannot categorize them as dinosaurs. This unique species evolved from terrestrial reptiles that withdrew to the sea. Convergent evolution happens when distinct species acquire similar features to adapt to similar challenges.
Dr. Mark Evans, a marine reptile specialist, stated:
A national and worldwide treasure, it’s also vital to the people of Rutland and its environs. If our identification of the ichthyosaur as Temnodontosaurus trigonodon is correct, it will provide new information on the species’ geographic distribution.”
Also, Dr. Lomax and his team are working hard to publish scientific articles on this outstanding finding.