Rare, 165 million-year-old plesiosaur skeleton discovered at Must Farm site near Whittlesey goes on display at Oxford museum
- Credit: Archant
A rare, 165 million-year-old plesiosaur skeleton discovered at the Must Farm Bronze Age site near Whtitelsey has been unveiled to the public.
After it was discovered at the Forterra quarry the company donated the skeleton to Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
The 5.5-metre long-necked marine reptile was found by a group of palaeontologists from the Oxford Clay Working Group in November 2014.
The fossil is now being displayed for the first time, alongside a second, short-necked plesiosaur at an exhibition called Out Of The Deep.
The larger specimen was first spotted by Oxford Clay Working Group member Carl Harrington, who noticed a tiny fragment of bone sticking out of the clay while visiting Must Farm quarry.
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Over the course of four days, Carl and his team dug up more than 600 pieces of fossilised bone. They then spent over 400 hours cleaning and repairing the specimen.
Carl Harrington said: “I’d never seen so much bone in one spot in a quarry. As I was digging amongst the wet clay, the snout of a plesiosaur started to appear in front of me.
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“It was one of those absolute ‘wow’ moments – I was the first human to come face to face with this reptile.”
The new specimen, called Muraenosaurus Durobrivensis, had a 2.5 metre-long neck, a barrel-shaped body, four flippers and a short tail.
The other, short necked plesiosaur, known as a pliosaur, was discovered by a museum curator in the 1990s in Yarnton, Oxfordshire.
On display together for the first time, the two specimens highlight the UK’s fossil heritage and provide a glimpse of some of the life which inhabited the marine environment of the Jurassic period.
Brian Chapman, Forterra’s head of land and mineral resources, said: “We are thrilled that such a rare and important prehistoric specimen was unearthed at our Must Farm quarry, and we were happy to be able to donate it to the museum, where it has been studied by leading palaeontologists and is now on display for everyone to see.”
The project was supported by grants from the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund, and WREN’s FCC Community Action Fund.