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  • by Trevor Loveday

Biggest catch fished out of Rutland Nature Reserve

The 180 million years-old remains of an ichthyosaur – meaning “fish lizard” – has been excavated from Anglian Water’s Rutland Water Nature Reserve.

Palaeontologist and world ichthyosaur expert, Dr Dean Lomax confirmed the fossil as the biggest and most complete skeleton of its kind found to date in the UK and declared it “one of the greatest finds in British palaeontological history.”

The 10 metres-long remains of the ichthyosaur were discovered by Conservation Team Leader at Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, Joe Davis, during a routine draining of a lagoon island in February 2021. The trust operates the nature reserve in partnership with Anglian.

The huge skeleton was excavated in August and September 2021 by a team of palaeontologists from around the UK, in partnership with Anglian Water, Rutland County Council and the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust.

The excavation was led by Lomax and palaeontological conservator, Nigel Larkin, along with marine reptile specialist, Dr Mark Evans, Dr Emma Nicholls from the Horniman Museum and volunteers with experience of excavating fossilised marine reptiles.

The Rutland skeleton is also thought to be the first ichthyosaur of its species (called Temnodontosaurus trigonodon) found in the country. The ichthyosaur group of marine reptiles first appeared around 250 million years ago and became extinct 90 million years ago. They varied in size from one to more than 25 metres in length, and resembled dolphins in general body shape.

The discovery is not the first at the Anglian Water reservoir, with two incomplete and much smaller ichthyosaurs found during the initial construction of Rutland Water in the 1970s.

Anglian Water is seeking heritage funding to preserve the fossil.


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