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Paleoworld-101

I've spent a fair amount of time now combing the beaches around Lyme Regis and Charmouth in Dorset, England, and thought i would put together a topic that presents all of my marine reptile bone finds (so far) in one place. The fossils here are Early Jurassic in age, approx. 195-190 million years old and come predominantly from the Blue Lias and Charmouth Mudstone formations. I first visited this area in 2013 with the simple goal of finding at least one ichthyosaur vertebra, and now after three subsequent trips in 2014, 2017 and 2019, i've put together a far better assortment of finds than i could have possibly hoped for! I think i have been quite lucky along this coastline, although it has taken many hours to amass this collection. Across all four of my England trips i have spent a total of 18 days looking for bones in the Lyme Regis area, most often on the stretch of beach between Lyme Regis and Charmouth but sometimes at Monmouth Beach as well. This coastline also produces a large quantity and diversity of ammonites, belemnites, crinoids, bivalves, brachiopods, gastropods, and even rare insects. However i've always been most interested in fossil vertebrates, and so the ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs that are found here have been my primary target for collecting. There are also some impressive articulated fish to be found, but as yet i have had no luck in finding any! Ichthyosaur bones are the most common type of vertebrate fossil in the area, particularly their bi-concave vertebrae. Less commonly you can also find pieces of the jaw, sometimes with teeth. If you are extra lucky though you may also find plesiosaur bones, which for whatever reason are much rarer than those of ichthyosaurs. The best way to find any type of marine reptile bone around Lyme Regis is to closely examine the shingle on the beach, and i've spent seemingly countless hours bent over and slowly walking along the shore looking for them. If you have a bad back it's even more difficult! I've learnt that bones can be found pretty much anywhere on the beach: in the slumping clays, at the top of the beach in the 'high and dry' shingle, along the middle of the beach, at the low tide line, and also underwater amongst the rocky pools and ledges. And just when i start to think that the beach has already been heavily searched and there isn't much left to find, there always seems to be another bone that turns up, often lying in plain sight. The truth is that most people who visit here to collect are not experts and will probably walk past a lot of these bones, as the texture is the most important thing that gives them away and learning to recognise it takes a bit of time. For the sorts of articulated skeletons that sometimes make news headlines and are beautifully intact, searching the shingle is not the way to go, but for a short term visitor like me i think it is the best way of maximising the chances of finding any sort of reptile bone in the shortest amount of time (and something i can take back with me on the plane too!). Without further ado, here are the pics (spread across multiple posts due to file size limits). I've also included as-found pictures for some of these finds to provide a sense of what they look like and how they are found when they are on the beach. 

 

 

The collection so far.

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Starting first with my favourite Lyme Regis fossil, this is a very nice plesiosaur vertebra that is in great condition! A very rare find! 

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I have been very fortunate to find two plesiosaur vertebrae at Lyme Regis so far, although this one is smaller and more beach-worn than the previous example. 

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Continued below. 

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Two pieces of ichthyosaur rostrum (jaw bone).

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This is the largest ichthyosaur rostrum piece i have so far. 

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Another ichthyosaur rostrum piece, although this one has teeth! I would love to find a larger/more complete jaw like this. 

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I'm not entirely sure what bone this is yet. Any ideas?

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An ichthyosaur basisphenoid, a bone from the rear of the skull. Quite rare! 

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A small ichthyosaur paddle digit. Amazingly this is the only example i have! They are incredibly hard to spot, but should be almost as common as vertebrae i would suspect. 

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Two articulated ichthyosaur vertebrae. This was the first vertebrate fossil i ever collected, back in 2013! Definitely a great start. 

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Another pair of articulated ichthyosaur vertebrae. 

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Three articulated ichthyosaur vertebrae. The bone quality of these is phenomenal. 

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A few different examples of single ichthyosaur vertebrae.  

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Additional single ichthyosaur vertebrae. Most of these are quite beach rolled, which is typical of the fossil bones along this coastline. Ichthyosaur vertebrae like these are the most common vertebrate fossils from the Lyme Regis area. One of these verts is still encased within hard mudstone and will require prepping. 

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This would be my largest ichthyosaur vertebra from Lyme Regis if it were complete. 

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Partial ichthyosaur vertebrae, two of which are oriented to display their characteristic bowtie-shaped cross sections. 

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Small and highly rolled pieces of marine reptile bone. 

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That's everything so far! I look forward to adding more in the future :)

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Nice finds! 

Brings back so many happy memories of searching these beaches. :)

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Brilliant finds, me and my friend are going for the first time this weekend.

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Very cool! I just watched a documentary the other day about the Ichthyosaur in that area. It was regarding a new species (at the time) that was discovered. Nice to know that “regular people” can find some nice Ichthyosaur pieces too! Those articulated verts are beauties! 

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Very nice collection, especially the skull sphenoid bone and the rostrum with teeth:envy:

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On 09/01/2020 at 1:57 AM, LiamL said:

Brilliant finds, me and my friend are going for the first time this weekend.

Good luck! Are you mainly after bones or invertebrates? 

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16 minutes ago, Paleoworld-101 said:

Good luck! Are you mainly after bones or invertebrates? 

Will be bones, but as its my first time i’ll be collecting a selection of different things.

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That is a really decent haul for 4 days on those beaches - Congratulations! I'm guessing the trips were not during the summer when the beaches are really busy? 

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6 hours ago, Jeff11 said:

That is a really decent haul for 4 days on those beaches - Congratulations! I'm guessing the trips were not during the summer when the beaches are really busy? 

It was across 4 separate "trips", but each trip consisted of 4-6 consecutive days of collecting, so all up these were found across 18 individual days of looking. Some of those days I found multiple bones, some days I found none. It's quite variable. And yes, all of this collecting was in or near the winter months. There's still always been others collecting on the beach each day I've been there, sometimes more than 30 people I would guess, but I imagine the crowds are much bigger in summer. 

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Anyway it's good even for 18 days. I didn't find any rostrum fragments in years (but dozens of verts)

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1 hour ago, RuMert said:

Anyway it's good even for 18 days. I didn't find any rostrum fragments in years (but dozens of verts)

Funnily enough just about all of my rostrum fragments were found amongst the large boulders that sit below the tide line, which are only exposed at low tide. I tend to find the verts amongst the dry shingle higher up the beach, but the rostrum bits are further out between the wet seaweed covered boulders and rock pools. I'm sure there is no actual correlation but that's just how it's been for me.  

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I think the correlation is that higher places are more picked over;)

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12 minutes ago, RuMert said:

I think the correlation is that higher places are more picked over;)

You'd think so, but then you still regularly see verts in those picked over areas that are just as obvious, and sitting in plain sight. Like the large plesiosaur vert in my first post, that as-found pic was from at the top of the beach in a spot that heaps of people would have walked over. I'm certainly not complaining lol but it shows that just about anything can still be found anywhere, despite the sites popularity.  

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Good post mate, I like the rostrum bit with the teeth. Wish ya had of got that fish you were hoping for :D

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5 hours ago, Ash said:

Good post mate, I like the rostrum bit with the teeth. Wish ya had of got that fish you were hoping for :D

Thanks! I know! Why i am able to find all these marine reptile bones but as of yet haven't found a single bit of fish is puzzling. Next time i go, i think my goal is going to be a Dapedium, even if it is just a flank of scales. The complete examples are absolutely stunning though. 

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They’re usually really black shiny scales from this locale, ain’t they?

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9 minutes ago, Ash said:

They’re usually really black shiny scales from this locale, ain’t they?

Yeah, really attractive specimens i think! Fingers crossed for next time. I don't expect something as magnificent as this but even just a section of articulated scales/flank that i could prep myself would be nice to have. 

 

L.2013.10.jpg

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  • 1 year later...
On 1/8/2020 at 12:59 PM, Paleoworld-101 said:

An ichthyosaur basisphenoid, a bone from the rear of the skull. Quite rare! 

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Love the Ichthyosaur basioccipital bone.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by LiamL
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