Excavating the ‘Rutland Sea Dragon’: The largest ichthyosaur skeleton ever found in the UK (Whitby Mudstone Formation, Toarcian, Lower Jurassic)

An almost complete ichthyosaur skeleton 10 m long was discovered in January 2021 at the Rutland Water Nature Reserve in the county of Rutland, UK. This was excavated by a small team of palaeontologists in the summer of the same year. Nicknamed ‘The Rutland Sea Dragon’, this almost fully articulated skeleton is an example of the large-bodied Early Jurassic ichthyosaur Temnodontosaurus. The specimen was analysed in situ, recorded (including a 3D scan using photogrammetry), excavated and removed from the site in a series of large plaster field jackets to preserve taphonomic information. Significantly, the specimen is the largest ichthyosaur skeleton to have been found in the UK and it may be the first recorded example of Temnodontosaurus trigonodon to be found in the country, extending its known geographic range significantly. It also represents the most complete skeleton of a large prehistoric reptile to have been found in the UK. We provide an account of the discovery and describe the methods used for excavating, recording and lifting the large skeleton which will aid palaeontologists facing similar challenges when collecting extensive remains of large and fragile fossil vertebrates. We also discuss the preliminary research findings and the global impact this discovery has had through public engagement.


Publication status:
Authors: Larkin, Nigel R., Lomax, Dean R., Evans, Mark, Nicholls, Emma, Dey, Steven, Boomer, Ian, Copestake, Philip, Bown, Paul, Riding, James B. ORCIDORCID record for James B. Riding, Withers, Darren, Davis, Joseph

On this site: Mark Evans
1 October, 2023
Proceedings of the Geologists' Association / 134
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