Giant 180 million year old ‘sea dragon’ fossil found in British reservoir – National

What started as routine maintenance on a British reservoir quickly turned into a major paleontological excavation when workers discovered a massive, 180-million-year-old ichthyosaur fossil at the bottom of the lake.

According to a press release from the Rutland Water Nature Reserve, the discovery happened in February last year during routine drainage of a lagoon island set for landscaping.

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The fossil, commonly known as the “Sea Dragon”, is about 10 meters long and its skull weighs about a ton, making it the largest and most complete skeleton of its kind found in Britain to date.

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It is also thought to be the first ichtyosaur of its specific species (Temnodontosaurus trigonodon) found in the United Kingdom

“It’s the most complete and larger than any dinosaur skeleton ever found here, so it’s a mega find for so many reasons,” paleontologist Dean Lomax, who led the excavation, told NBC News.

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“During this period, it would have been at the very top of the food chain. It is an ultimate apex predator, perhaps one of the largest animals in the ocean worldwide.”

The massive fossil was discovered by a couple of conservation team workers who noticed what looked like pipes sticking out of the mud. Upon further investigation, they realized that they had dug out organic material and decided that it was probably bones.

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Ichthyosaurs first appeared about 250 million years ago and became extinct 90 million years ago. The sea creatures range from one to 25 meters in length and resemble dolphins in general body shape.

An artist’s reconstruction of the fossil nicknamed “Rutland Sea Dragon”.

Matthew Power Photography / Anglian Water

Two incomplete and much smaller ichthyosaurs were found during the construction of Rutland Water in the 1970s, but the most recent discovery is the first complete skeleton. Researchers told CNN that they also discovered the vertebrae from several other ichthyosaurs under the main trench.

The remains of the massive skeleton were excavated in August and September last year by a team of expert paleontologists from across the UK

“It is a truly unprecedented discovery and one of the greatest finds in British paleontological history,” Lomax said in the press release.

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The excavation of the remains will be shown on BBC Two’s Digging for Great Britain on Tuesday.

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