Scottish Daily Mail

The sea dragon of Rutland

32ft beast ‘one of best fossil finds in the UK’

- By Victoria Allen Science Correspond­ent

A GIANt ‘sea dragon’ discovered in the Midlands has been hailed as one of the greatest finds in British fossil history.

the ichthyosau­r, spotted at the bottom of the Rutland Water, is the largest and most complete skeleton found in the UK, at 32 feet (10metres) in length, with a skull weighing a ton.

the new specimen, which lived approximat­ely 180million years ago, was found at the largest reservoir in England as conservati­onists drained water to improve the habitat for breeding birds.

Joe Davis, 48, from Leicesters­hire and Rutland Wildlife trust, who found the skeleton, said: ‘My colleague thought the ridges we saw at the muddy bottom of the reservoir were probably just pipes.

‘When the palaeontol­ogists and our team uncovered the full skeleton and lifted it out using a tractor with a loader, the head was as large as me, and I am six-feet tall. It’s a tremendous beast.’

the ichthyosau­r is believed to be a species called temnodonto­saurus trigonodon. But if it is found to be a new species, it could be named after Mr Davis.

Dr Dean Lomax, a world expert on ichthyosau­rs from the University of Manchester who spent 14 days excavating the fossil, hailed it as ‘one of the greatest finds in British palaeontol­ogical history’.

two incomplete, smaller ichthyosau­rs – which became extinct 90million years ago – were found at Rutland Water in the 1970s.

After being discovered in January last year the new specimen was removed in August so as not to disrupt the birds at the nature reserve. the find comes amid a flurry of interest in the reptiles, which are nicknamed sea dragons because of their large teeth and eyes.

Mary Anning, the fossil-hunter who uncovered the first ichthyosau­r known to science aged 12, was the subject of Ammonite, a 2020 film starring Kate Winslet.

the excavation will feature on BBC2’s Digging For Britain tomorrow at 8pm.

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