The fossilised remains of a ten-metre long "sea dragon" have been discovered in a reservoir in England.
Dating back 180 million years, it’s believed to be the largest and most complete skeleton of its kind found to date in the UK.
"Our specimen, the Rutland Ichthyosaur, or Rutland Sea Dragon, is the biggest complete ichthyosaur ever found in Britain in over 200 years, of collecting these things scientifically, which is an incredible feat," palaeontologist Dr Dean Lomax, who studied the species, said.
Ichthyosaurs were warm-blooded, air-breathing sea predators that could grow up to 25 metres long and resembled dolphins in general body shape. The species, known as "sea dragons" due to their enormous teeth and eyes, first appeared 250 million years ago, and have been extinct for 90 million years.
"Just the scale and sheer size of each of the vertebrae, it’s got to be something from a time when animals were massive," Joe Davis, who works for Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, said.
He first spotted what looked like stones and ridges in the mud during a routine draining of the Midlands reserve back in February 2021.
Following the excavation, it was concluded that the "sea dragon" creature – longer than a double decker bus – was a huge ichthyosaur weighing approximately one tonne.