Approximately 250 million years ago, a "sea dragon" that could reach up to 25 metres in length swam the oceans. Now, the fossilized skeletons of one of these giant creatures, also known as an ichthyosaur, has been discovered by a group at the Rutland Water Nature Reserve in the U.K.
The team is calling it the “palaeontological discovery of a lifetime."
It represents Britain’s largest and most complete ichthyosaur ever found, and it may be the first ichthyosaur of its species, Temnodontosaurus trigonodon, unearthed in England.
Conservation team leader Joe Davis found the specimen last year. It was excavated by experts and volunteers during the summer, and newly-released footage details the excavation that took place in August 2021.
The remains measure about 10 metres in length and are about 180 million years old. The skull weighs about one tonne, according to Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust.
Ichthyosaurs went extinct approximately 90 million years ago.
“It is a truly unprecedented discovery and one of the greatest finds in British palaeontological history,” Dr. Dean Lomax, the leader of the excavation project, said in a statement.
What makes the find even more significant is the nature of the specimen, which Dr. Mark Evans of the British Antarctic Survey and a visiting fellow at the University of Leicester said is "practically complete to the tip of the tail."
"Rutland’s motto, 'Multum in Parvo', translates as 'Much in Little' so it is fitting that we’ve found Britain’s largest ichthyosaur skeleton in England’s smallest county," Dr. Evans said.
"It’s a highly significant discovery both nationally and internationally but also of huge importance to the people of Rutland and the surrounding area.”