Caldecotte Ichthyosaur

Nominated by: Michael Oates

This fossil; a skeleton of an extinct marine reptile, swam through the Jurassic seas some 160 million years ago, until its demise, whereupon it sank to the soft, dark sea floor to be covered by mud that became the Oxford Clay Formation.  It was found in 1982 by a workman during excavations for Caldecotte Lake, Milton Keynes.  Luckily, experts from Leicester University were involved, and the skeleton, of which some 75% is preserved, was lifted, conserved, recorded, reconstructed and eventually found its permanent place, back in Buckinghamshire, on the wall of Milton Keynes Central Library where it can be seen by any member of the public.

As an object of Bucks interest, it carries great palaeontological value.  Prof. Dave Martill studied the skeleton and published his research on the ichthyosaur which included an interpretation that it hit the sea floor snout-first, preserving soft jaw tissues and almost unprecedented probable skin pigment cells where it penetrated the anoxic sediment.  The upper parts show evidence of predation and the growth of oysters on the decomposing carcass).  It is an icon of Jurassic marine life and fossilisation.   It reminds viewers that during geological time, much has changed and the fauna of the earth was very different in the past.  It is a signal that almost anywhere, interesting discoveries can be made by anyone in commonplace excavations.  It provides an inspiration for young people (and the older generation too) to become interested in geology and palaeontology in particular. 

I was born and raised in Buckinghamshire which has been my home during much of my life.  Exposure to such fascinating objects in my youth, many of which I found around Buckinghamshire, sparked a lifelong passion and influenced me to read geology as a university subject, leading to a lifelong career in the field. 

The Caldecotte Ichthyosaur was nominated by Dr Michael Oates, Geologist and founder member of Bucks Geology Group.