January 11, 2022 10.13 am

‘Sea Dragon’ fossil found near Lincolnshire border is the largest in Britain

It will feature on Digging for Britain on BBC Two

The biggest skeleton of its kind in the UK has been found at Rutland Water near the Lincolnshire border, as reserves teams celebrate the discovery of a 10m long ‘Sea Dragon’.

The fossilised remains of Britain’s largest ichthyosaur, otherwise known as a ‘Sea Dragon’, was found at Rutland Water Nature Reserve during a routine draining of a lagoon island in February 2021, in Lincolnshire’s neighbouring county of Rutland.

The ichthyosaur is approximately 180 million years old and its skeleton measures at around 10 metres in length, with the skull weighing approximately one tonne, making it the most complete fossil discovery of its kind in the history of the UK.

It was initially thought that clap pipes were sticking out, but it “looked organic” and turned out to be a 10m fossil. | Photo: Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust

It was discovered by Rutland Water Conservation Team Leader Joe Davis, who said: “I worked out on the Hebrides, so I’ve found whale and dolphin skeletons before. This appeared similar and I remarked to Paul that they looked like vertebrae.

“We followed what indisputably looked like a spine and Paul discovered something further along that could have been a jawbone. We couldn’t quite believe it.”

Britain’s largest ‘Sea Dragon’ fossil has been discovered at Rutland Water Nature Reserve. | Photo: Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust

The extraordinary creature went extinct 90 million years ago, resembling dolphins in their shape, and this particular discovery is thought to be the first ichthyosaur of its species to be found in the country.

It is very likely that this creature will have swam around what used to be Lincolnshire in prehistoric times, as our county was a warm shallow sea around 180 million years ago, home to multiple creatures including Plesiosaurs, one of which can be found on display at The Collection in Lincoln.

Joe Davis, Rutland Water Conservation Team Leader, found the incredible fossilised remains. | Photo: Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust

Joe continues: “The find has been absolutely fascinating and a real career highlight, it’s great to learn so much from the discovery and to think that this amazing creature was once swimming in seas above us, and now once again Rutland Water is a haven for wetland wildlife albeit on a smaller scale!

The remains were fully excavated last year and will feature on BBC Two’s Digging for Britain at 8pm on Tuesday, January 11, a programme which went to the Lincolnshire Fens earlier in January to explore the possible site of Saint Guthlac.

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