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Man Finds 65-Million-Year-Old Sea Creature's Skeleton While Walking His Dogs

Ryan Ford 16 Dec 2019

Amateur archaeologist Jon Gopsill made the discovery of a lifetime while out walking his dogs on the beach when he happened across the 65-million-year-old remains of an ichthyosaurus, the Daily Mail reported.

Gopsill says he was out for a stroll with his two dogs at a beach in Somerset, as is usual for them, when his dogs sniffed out something unusual.

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"I often go to the beach walking with my dogs and when the tide goes out we go out to the rocks because they like playing there," he explained.

"We were at the beach when I saw this thing and thought, 'What's that?' so I went a bit closer and thought, 'Wow.'"

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Gopsill often keeps an eye out for fossils like ammonites, but obviously he's never found anything quite like this.

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"I realized that it was amazing, museum-quality stuff, as soon as I saw it I knew I found something special," he said. "I thought it was obviously a fossilized creature, possibly an ichthyosaur."

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So, Gopsill contacted Somerset Heritage and the Natural History Museum about his discovery.

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And it turns out Gopsill was right about it being an ichthyosaur skeleton, according to Mike Day, a curator in the Earth Sciences department at the Natural History Museum.

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While cautioning that he couldn't be certain of the kind of ichthyosaur just from pictures, Day said everything appeared to be in the right place.

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"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," he said.

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Ichthyosaurs were not technically dinosaurs, but large porpoise-like reptiles.

Wikimedia | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ichthyosaurus_BW.jpg

Their fossil remains date from about 250 million to about 65 million years ago, with the largest specimens reaching a size of 43 feet in length.

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Gopsill's discovery is much smaller, only about 5.5 feet in length, which is much closer to the average length of ichthyosaurs.

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However, that doesn't make it any less exciting for him.

"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."

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Gopsill's dogs have caught a bit of their owner's fossil-hunting acumen as well.

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He says that the day after finding the ichthyosaurus, one of his dogs fetched him a stone that contained a fossil.

"I couldn't believe it, it's stunning," he said. "I've taught her what fossils are but I didn't expect her to bring me one. My wife says it's luck — I think having the stormy weather has washed a lot of mud out so the rocks were a little bit more exposed."

h/t: Daily Mail

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