Jurassic Coast fossil confirmed as new species

The fossil which has been revealed as a completekly new species

The fossil which has been revealed as a completekly new species - Credit: Archant

Remains of razor-toothed marine reptile has been named after Lyme’s Mary Anning

Mary Anning

Mary Anning - Credit: Archant

A Jurassic Coast fossil thought to be a fake and left gathering dust in a museum for three decades has turned out to be a completely new species of pre-historic marine reptile.

Palaeontologist Dean Lomax uncovered the remains of the extinct razor-toothed predator (pictured right) while working at Doncaster Museum in 2008.

Now, years of painstaking research have confirmed that the remains are not a plaster cast, as originally thought, but that of a previously unknown species of ichthyosaur.

And the unique find has been named Ichthyosaurus anningae - after Lyme Regis’s world-famous pioneering palaeontologist Mary Anning, who discovered the first ichthyosaur on the West Dorset coast in about 1811.

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In the meantime, experts are anxious to track down the Jurassic Coast fossil hunter who unknowingly discovered the new species of ancient sea lizard some 30 years ago.

Scientists hope news of this find might help trace the man or woman who first found the 189-million-year-old remains on the Jurassic Coast in the early 1980s. It is the first new ichthyosaurus identified for almost 130 years.

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The marine reptiles swam in large numbers in the seas off the East Devon and West Dorset coast at the time of the dinosaurs.

The Doncaster specimen was unearthed in the rocks between Axmouth and Lyme Regis in the early 1980s and then taken north where it lay largely untouched before Dean’s discovery.

Dean said: “It is an honour to name a new species, but to name it after somebody who is intertwined with such an important role in helping to sculpt the science of palaeontology, especially in Britain, is something that I’m very proud of. In fact, one of the specimens in our study was even found by Mary herself! Science is awesome.

“This discovery shows that new species, and not only ichthyosaurs, are awaiting discovery in museum collections. Not all new discoveries are made in the field.”

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