What began as routine maintenance on a UK reservoir quickly shifted to 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 occurred last February during routine drainage of a lagoon island that was scheduled for re-landscaping.
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The fossil, colloquially 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 ever found in the UK. Is.
It is also considered the first ichthyosaur of its distinct species (Temnodontosaurus Trigonodon) found in the UK
“It’s the most complete and larger than any dinosaur skeleton ever found here, so it’s a mega-discovery for a number of reasons,” paleontologist Dean Lomax, who led the excavation, told NBC News.
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“During this time period, it would have been at the top of the food chain. It is an ultimate apex predator, probably one of the largest animals in the ocean worldwide.”
The massive fossil was spotted by some conservation team workers, who noticed what looked like a pipe sticking out of clay. Upon further investigation, he realized that he had detected organic material and decided it was probably bones.
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Ichthyosaurs first appeared about 250 million years ago and went extinct 90 million years ago. Marine animals range anywhere from one to 25 meters in length and resemble dolphins in general body shape.
Two incomplete and much smaller ichthyosaurs were found during the formation of Rutland Water in the 1970s, but the latest discovery is the first complete skeleton. The researchers told CNN that they discovered vertebrae from several other ichthyosaurs during the main excavation.
The remains of the mammoth skeleton were excavated in August and September last year by a team of specialist paleontologists from Britain.
“This is a truly unprecedented discovery and one of the greatest discoveries in the history of British paleontology,” Lomax said in the press release.
The excavation of the remains will be shown on BBC Two digging for uk on Tuesday.
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