23 Jan 2020

The fossilised remains of a spectacular marine reptile which once ruled the planet’s oceans have been given a new home in Leeds.

 

The prehistoric bones of a Plesiosaur, thought to have died around 160 million years ago, have gone on permanent display at the Leeds Discovery Centre this week.

 

Originally discovered in the Oxford Clay, a thick band of mud which underpins huge swathes of the southern UK, the remains date from the Jurassic era, when the species thrived alongside other fearsome marine giants. Although the fossil is missing its head, and it is unknown if the skull was ever fossilised, large parts of the skeleton have been preserved in remarkable detail.

 

Rebecca Machin, Leeds Museums and Galleries’ curator of natural sciences, was part of the team which reassembled the bones for display at the state-of-the-art storage facility near Leeds Dock.

 

She said: “Fossils like these give us a direct, tangible link to an era when our oceans were a remarkably different place, teeming with life and home to marine giants which continually battled for dominance over tens of millions of years.

 

“They can also teach us a great deal about the how much our planet has changed and the many extraordinary ways that life has evolved to suit different environments. By studying these types of remains, we can still learn much about the world we inhabit today.”

 

Plesiosaurs take their name from the Greek plesios meaning “near to” and sauros, meaning “lizard.”

 

First appearing in the late Triassic, they thrived until their disappearance in the extinction event which wiped out many of the planet’s most dominant life forms including the dinosaurs.

 

Plesiosaurs were among the first fossil reptiles discovered, known for their distinct long necks and broad flippers. The fossilised Plesiosaur skeleton on display at the Leeds Discovery Centre came to Leeds Museums and Galleries from the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society.

Leeds Discovery Centre is open for free tours on Thursdays at 11am and 2pm.