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Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Beast in the Cellar

Geologists Ben Brooks and Phil Davidson have carried out an extensive analysis of a very large Ichthyosaur, codenamed E42, which is stored in the cellar of Lyme Regis Museum. The specimen is approximately 4.2 metres in length, and is broken into 18 separate blocks. It is believed to be a member of the genus Temnodontosaurus, which flourished in the early Jurassic period, between 198 and 185 million years ago.

This fantastic fossil is one of the largest to be discovered on the Jurassic Coast, England’s only Natural World Heritage Site, and is one of the hidden treasures of Lyme Regis Museum. But it won't be hidden much longer – Ben and Phil have made a digital reconstruction of the fossil (an overview of which is seen above), and this will soon be put online on the Museum's website. Director David Tucker said “we’re very grateful to Ben and Phil for the work they have done on this amazing fossil. We would love to be able to display the fossil in our museum, but unfortunately it is too big for our geology gallery. Putting these images on our website is the best way that we can make the ichthyosaur accessible to a wider audience.”

Lyme Regis is the home of the science of palaeontology and the museum is built on the footprint of the house of Mary Anning, the first and greatest of all fossil collectors. The museum is in the early stages of a project to extend its premises. “We are the key fossil site in Britain” added David “and we want to make sure that this unique town has the museum it deserves as the key fossil-hunting site in Britain”.

The photograph on the left shows the Museum basement where the 18 blocks containing the massive ichthyosaur specimen are stored.