Massive Jurassic Period ‘Sea Dragon’ Fossil Unearthed
In February 2021, Joe Davis, conservation team leader at Rutland Water Nature Reserve in Britain, came across something that at first looked like a series of rocks or pipes. Davis, however, soon realized that he had in fact discovered the fossil remains of a giant 200-million-year-old marine reptile. A marine reptile that swam in the oceans during the Jurassic Period. And, thanks to its appearance, earned the nickname Sea Dragon.
Gizmodo reported on Davis’ discovery, which scientists will explore in an upcoming episode of the BBC Two show, Digging for Britain. Paleontologists who helped unearth the massive fossil say it is the largest sea dragon – or ichthyosaur – ever discovered in Britain. Quite a feat because paleontologists have been collecting fossils of marine reptiles from the region for 200 years.
“I have been studying Jurassic reptiles from Rutland and Leicestershire for over twenty years,” Dr Mark Evans of the British Antarctic Survey said in a press release. “When I first saw the initial exhibit of the specimen with Joe Davis, I could tell it was the largest known ichthyosaur in either county,” Evans added. .
Measuring around 32 feet long, the new Sea Dragon was indeed to be massive. The reptile’s skull alone is 6.5 feet long and weighs over 2,000 pounds. And the fossils that make up the body of the giant creature weigh over 3,000 pounds.
Paleontologists believe ichthyosaurs like this one lived in shallow ocean waters. Reptiles, which looked quite strangely like dolphins or sharks, first appeared during the Triassic Period, around 250 million years ago. During their tenure as carnivorous ocean hunters, “fish lizards” ate relatively small prey. According to Earth Science Australia, ichthyosaurs ate fish, squid, etc. Although snacking on large vertebrates was not totally excluded.
In the video above, Evans notes that this fossil is the UK’s largest complete ichthyosaur. Indeed, an aerial view of the fossil gives not only an idea of its size, but also of its shape; so much so that it almost looks like the sea dragon (in the illustration above, left) is still swimming. It will definitely stay in our nightmares for a long time, anyway.