Scientists unearth a 32-foot-long prehistoric 'sea dragon' fossil in Britain

He noticed that what looked like clay pipes was sticking out of the mud, but on closer inspection he thought it might be vortices. He called local officials and it wasn’t long before Lomax came to inspect the fossil.

The huge and fragile skeleton was then carefully excavated in a complex operation performed by a team of paleontologists for two weeks in August and September 2021. The fossil was then wrapped in plaster-covered wooden rails for protection.

In addition to its size, the fossil was also remarkable because it was discovered outside of the areas on England’s south and Yorkshire coasts where ichthyosaurs were previously found. In contrast, this fossil was discovered in an inland area about 160 km north of London. During the Jurassic period, the area was covered by a warm tropical sea.

“The first ichthyosaurs found in the Jurassic period were a few meters long, between 5 and 10 feet, while these ichthyosaurs and others that were found but are less complete are the first to be real Jurassic giants,” said Lomax.

“It’s an interesting way of looking at the historical development of ichthyosaurs.”

A team worked last August and September to excavate the fossil of the largest and most complete ichthyosaur ever found in Britain.
Matthew Power / Anglian Water

Lomax hopes this complete fossil will help paleontologists fill knowledge gaps with other incomplete ichthyosaur fossil fragments discovered in the UK.

The remains are now in the laboratory of paleontological conservator Nigel Larkin, where, according to Lomax, they will be cleaned, preserved and processed. The ichthyosaur will be on display for the next 18 to 24 months.

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