An amateur fossil hunter has discovered a new species of ‘sea dragons’ dating from 150 million years ago on the southern coast of England. While it couldn’t fly or breathe fire, the new specimen may have been capable of diving at incredible depths.
The well-preserved ichthyosaur fossil was unearthed off of the Jurassic Coast in Dorset by fossil hunter Steven Etches. Fascinated by its unusual shape, Etches gave the fossil to a team of experts who identified it as a new genus and species. Soon after, the scientists dubbed it the “Etches sea dragon” (Thalassodraco etchesi).
“It’s excellent that new species of ichthyosaurs are still being discovered, which shows just how diverse these incredible animals were in the Late Jurassic seas,” said Etches, who also said he was honored the discovery was named after him.
So far, scientists have discovered five species of ichthyosaur from the Late Jurassic period in the UK. They are known as sea dragons because of their usually large teeth and eyes.
According to Megan Jacobs, who helped identify the new species, the Etches sea dragon stands out from other ichthyosaurs. It has a deep ribcage which means it probably had large lungs that allowed it to dive deep underwater. Its eyes are also larger, covering almost a quarter of its whole skull, which would have allowed it to see in low light conditions in the deep sea.
The fossil can now be found on display in Etches’ own museum in Dorset, which also houses his many other discoveries.