Attenborough and the Sea Dragon

Synopsis: Sir David Attenborough investigates the discovery of a 200 million year old Ichthyosaur on the Jurassic Coast in southern England.
Genre: Documentary
58 min

People thought it was some kind

of monster, but what was it?

They thought it was a kind of cross

between a reptile and a fish

so they called it an ichthyosaur

- A fish lizard or sea dragon.

Since that time, many fossil

fragments of ichthyosaurs

have been discovered on the Jurassic Coast.

But complete skeletons are very rare.

The particular one that

Chris has just found

is significantly different from any

that's ever been found here before.

It's not easy to get to the

beach where it was discovered.

At high tide, the only

way to do so is by boat.

I asked Chris where the rest of

the skeleton might still lie.

It's in the very top limestone bed

where the cliffs are at the lowest point.

It's got about two metres on top of clay

and we'll have to clear this material off

till we get to the limestone bed.

It' a lot of hard work.

It's a lot of digging, yeah, and

also we have to do it, really,

before the winter turns again

and the weather gets bad

because there's a chance

that the next landslip

will just push it off onto

the beach and destroy it.

In Jurassic times, sea

covered all this area.

On its floor, sediments

washed down from the land

turned into layers of shales and limestone.

The land rose, the sea retreated

and now in the rocks,

you can find the remains of the creatures

that once lived in those ancient waters.

As well as the remains of ammonites,

there are the bones of fish,

such as sharks.

But the top predators at this time

were reptiles - ichthyosaurs.

They dominated the seas for

more than 150 million years.

After getting permission to dig,

the team clamber down the

cliff to the particular layer

where the rest of our ichthyosaur

skeleton should be lying.

I'm going to need at least another metre,

cos I need to drop down to the next bit.

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "Attenborough and the Sea Dragon" STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 5 May 2021. <>.

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