In 2021, the fossilised remains of Britain’s largest ichthyosaur, colloquially known as the Rutland Sea Dragon, were discovered at the Rutland Water Nature Reserve.
The huge skeleton was found during some routine maintenance on the nature reserve, near Egleton, in Rutland.
The ichthyosaur is thought to be the biggest and most complete skeleton of its kind found to date in the UK, and is also thought to be the first ichthyosaur of its species (Temnodontosaurus trigonodon) found in the country. It is approximately 180 million years old, with a skeleton measuring around 10 metres in length and a skull weighing approximately one tonne.
Ichthyosaurs first appeared around 250 million years ago and went extinct 90 million years ago. They were an extraordinary group of marine reptiles that varied in size from 1 to more than 25 metres in length, and resembled dolphins in general body shape.
The discovery is not the first at Rutland Water, with two incomplete and much smaller ichthyosaurs found when we initially constructed the reservoir in the 1970s. It is however the first complete skeleton we’ve ever found at Rutland Water.