Dogs Discover 150 Million-Year-Old Jurassic Skeleton On British Beach
Dogs are known for their love of bones, though one pet owner was shocked when his hounds stumbled across an entire ancient skeleton thought to be from the Jurassic period.
The five-and-a-half foot long fossil has not yet been officially dated, but it is thought to have belonged to an ichthyosaur; a prehistoric porpoise-like sea mammal which lived during the Jurassic period, 199.6 million to 145.5 million years ago.
Jon Gopsill, 54, discovered the skeleton while walking his two beloved dogs, Poppy and Sam, on the coast of Stolford, Somerset on Saturday, December 14.
The dog walker took the animals to some rocks on the beach while the tide was out, because ‘they like playing there’. Jon often takes his pets to the beach, but recent storms had an impact on the landscape and the 54-year-old came across the ancient remains as he followed his dogs.
Recalling the discovery, Jon said:
We were at the beach when I saw this thing and thought “what’s that?” so I went a bit closer and thought “wow”.
I realised that it was amazing, museum quality stuff, as soon as I saw it I knew I found something special.
The 54-year-old, who is an amateur archaeologist, says he always keeps his eyes open for preserved remains and already has a supply of ammonites – the ribbed spiral-form shell of the extinct marine molluscs – though this is definitely one of his more impressive finds.
The dog owner continued:
I thought it was obviously a fossilised sea creature, possibly an ichthyosaur.
I was just blown away to see it there. It really is incredible that it has survived for such a long time and is now just there for everyone to see.
Jon snapped pictures of the skeleton and reported his finding to Somerset Heritage as well as the Natural History Museum.
Dr. Mike Day, curator in the Earth Sciences department at the Natural History Museum, confirmed the skeleton was likely to belong to an ichthyosaur, though he is unable to say for certain without inspecting it in person.
Dr. Day explained:
Looking at this specimen, based on the number of bones in the pectoral paddle, the apparent absence of a pelvic girdle, as well as the distinctive “hunch” of the back, this is likely to be the remains of an ichthyosaur.
It is not possible to identify the exact type of ichthyosaur from these images alone, however.
Ichthyosaurs averaged about six to 13 feet in length and were similar in appearance to modern-day dolphins.
Poppy and Sam appear to have adopted their owner’s love of archaeology, as just one day after discovering the prehistoric skeleton one of the pups delivered another fossil to its owner.
The 54-year-old explained:
I couldn’t believe it, it’s stunning – I’ve taught her what fossils are but I didn’t expect her to bring me one.
My wife says it was just luck – I think having the stormy weather has washed a lot of mud out so the rocks were a little bit more exposed.
The two eagle-eyed dogs certainly deserve a good belly scratch after making their discoveries; hopefully they’ll keep up the good work!
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