In February 2021 Joe Davis, a conservation team leader at the Rutland Water Nature Reserve in Great Britain, stumbled upon something that, at first, seemed like a series of rocks or pipes. Davis, however, soon realized he’d actually discovered the fossil remains of a giant 200-million-year-old marine reptile. A marine reptile that swam in the oceans during the Jurassic period. And, thanks to its appearance, has earned the moniker Sea Dragon.
Gizmodo reported on Davis’ discovery, which scientists will explore in an upcoming episode of BBC Two’s show, Digging for Britain. Paleontologists who helped to unearth the massive fossil say it stands as the largest Sea Dragon—or ichthyosaur—anybody’s ever discovered in Great Britain. Quite a feat as paleontologists have been collecting fossils of the marine reptiles in the region for 200 years.
“I’ve been studying the Jurassic fossil reptiles of Rutland and Leicestershire for over twenty years,” Dr. Mark Evans of the British Antarctic Survey said in a press release. “When I first saw the initial exposure of the specimen with Joe Davis I could tell that it was the largest ichthyosaur known from either county,” Evans added.
At approximately 32 feet long the new Sea Dragon must’ve indeed been massive. The reptile’s skull alone is 6.5 feet long and weighs more than 2,000 pounds. And the fossils that make up the giant creature’s body weigh more than 3,000 pounds.
Paleontologists believe that ichthyosaurs like this one dwelled in shallow ocean waters. The reptiles, which looked, oddly enough, somewhat like dolphins or sharks, first appeared during the triassic period roughly 250 million years ago. During their tenure as carnivorous ocean hunters the “fish lizards” ate relatively small prey. According to Earth Science Australia ichthyosaurs enjoyed a diet of fish, squid, and the like. Although snacking on large vertebrates was not entirely off the table.
In the video above Evans notes that this fossil stands as the largest complete ichthyosaur in the UK. Indeed, an aerial view of the fossil gives not just a sense of its size, but also its shape; so much so it almost looks like the Sea Dragon (in the illustration above, left) is still swimming. It’ll certainly be lurking in our nightmares for a long time, anyway.