The fossilized remains of a ten meter long ichthyosaur – also known as a ‘sea dragon’ – have been found in a reservoir owned by Anglian Water in Rutland.
It dates back 180 million years and is the largest and most complete skeleton of its kind found in Britain to date.
The discovery of the ‘sea dragon’ at the Rutland Water Nature Reserve has been hailed by experts as a “very significant” and “unprecedented” paleontological find.
Ichthyosaurs are marine reptiles that resemble dolphins. They were common in Britain until their extinction about 90 million years ago.
“Britain is the birthplace of ichthyosaurs – their fossils have been excavated here for over 200 years, with the first scientific research going back to Mary Anning and her discoveries along the Jurassic Coast,” said paleontologist Dr. Dean Lomax.
Rutland remains were discovered by chance in February last year, during a routine drainage of a lagoon for landscaping. With a length of about 10 meters – longer than a double-decker bus – and with a skull of about a ton, the fragile skeleton took a team of paleontologists two months to excavate last summer.
“Despite the many ichthyosaur fossils found in the UK, it is remarkable to think that the Rutland ichthyosaur is the largest skeleton ever found in the UK,” said Dr. Lomax. “It is a truly unprecedented discovery and one of the greatest finds in British paleontological history.”
Joe Davies, from Leicestershire and the Rutland Wildlife Trust, which operates the reservoir in partnership with Anglian Water, was the first to discover the fossil. “The discovery has been absolutely fascinating and a real career highlight,” he said.
The fossil is shown on BBC Two’s Digging for Great Britain program Tuesday. Anglian Water said it is seeking cultural heritage funding to preserve the fossil and enable the public to see it on the site in Rutland. “We recognize the importance a discovery like this will have for the local community in Rutland,” said Peter Simpson, CEO of Anglian Water. “Our focus now is to secure the right funding to ensure that its legacy will last into the future.”
This is not the first time Ichthyosaur remains have been found at this reservoir in Rutland. Two incomplete and much smaller ichthyosaurs were found during the construction of the reservoir in the 1970s.