The fossilised remains of Britain’s largest ichthyosaur, colloquially known as a ‘Sea Dragon’, has been discovered at Rutland Water Nature Reserve, which Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust manage in partnership with Anglian Water.
It is the biggest and most complete skeleton of its kind found to date in the UK and is also thought to be the first ichthyosaur of its species (called Temnodontosaurus trigonodon) found in the country.
The remains were fully excavated early last year and will feature on BBC Two’s Digging for Britain, on Tuesday 11th January at 8pm, before being made available on BBC iPlayer.
The ichthyosaur was discovered by Joe Davis, Rutland Water Conservation Team Leader, during the routine draining of a lagoon island for re-landscaping in February 2021.
Joe and Reserves Officer Paul Trevor set off across the lagoon when Joe noticed what looked like clay pipes sticking up out of the mud, except that “they looked organic. 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.”
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!”