Warwickshire’s Jurassic sea-dragons

Warwickshire’s Jurassic seas were the home of reptiles known as ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs – real Jurassic sea-dragons which grew up to several metres in length. Their skeletons have been found in the 200 million year old limestone and clay beds of southern Warwickshire. These rocks formed as layers of mud on the floor of the ancient Jurassic sea.

Ichthyosaurs were sleek, dolphin-like animals, ideally shaped for swimming in open waters. Some specimens display the outlines of the body, showing a tail fin and shark-like dorsal fin. Their jaws were armed with blunt teeth, perfect for catching fish and squid-like belemnites.

Plesiosaurs swam through the water with wing-like limbs and many had very long necks. Polished pebbles have been found within the rib cages of some plesiosaur skeletons. It is possible that plesiosaurs swallowed the pebbles to use them as ballast, like modern sea lions and penguins.

Market Hall’s geology gallery houses this spectacular skeleton of a plesiosaur, discovered in the early nineteenth century at Wilmcote, near Stratford-upon-Avon.

The plesiosaur was once thought to be long-necked, but with several neck bones missing. For this reason a gap was left in the neck when the specimen was mounted in the museum. We now think that this was a short-necked plesiosaur, with all the neck vertebrae present.

The specimen is approximately 4 metres in height.

Wilmcote plesiosaur skeleton

The geology gallery at Market Hall includes a display of local Jurassic fossils including the Wilmcote plesiosaur. For more information contact the Curator of Natural Sciences:

Telephone: 01926 412500
Email: museum@warwickshire.gov.uk