Dogs discover dinosaur fossil on Somerset beach

Poppy and Sam discovered the mineralized skeleton of a dinosaur while enjoying a walk on the beach at Stolford, Somerset, on Saturday. Their owner Jon Gopsill was walking them at low tide when they stumbled on a skeleton five and a half feet long that had been exposed by recent storm activity.

Gopsill is a paleontology fan and has found several fossils before, but they were mainly ammonites, not a large Mesozoic marine reptile. He has reported Poppy and Sam’s find to Somerset Heritage and sent photographs to the Natural History Museum in London.

Dr. Mike Day, curator in the Earth Sciences department at the Natural History Museum, confirmed the skeleton was likely to belong to an ichthyosaur, though he is unable to say for certain without inspecting it in person.

Dr. Day explained:

“Looking at this specimen, based on the number of bones in the pectoral paddle, the apparent absence of a pelvic girdle, as well as the distinctive ‘hunch’ of the back, this is likely to be the remains of an ichthyosaur.

It is not possible to identify the exact type of ichthyosaur from these images alone, however.”

NB: The news service article (carried verbatim in several media outlets) describes ichthyosaurs as “porpoise-like sea mammals,” and while they were porpoise-like in some morphological aspects, they were not mammals. The name itself should have been sufficient to overcome this basic fact-checking deficiency as any 10-year-old and/or viewer of a quarter century of blockbuster movies could tell you “saur” comes from the Greek for “lizard.” Dinosaurs, all of them, were reptiles. Everyone knows this. You can tell Poppy and Sam know it.

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Comment by Jim
2019-12-16 22:20:22

The dogs add a scents of scale.

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Comment by George
2019-12-17 00:39:31

Firstly, I am a bit impressed about myself, as I –being not really a dinosaur expert– immediately as I saw the fin, just knew that this must be an Ichthyosaur.

Sheer incredible seems to me to find one “on the beach” :notworthy:

They are also found over here in Franconia, and in Banz there is one exhibited, actually that’s only its head of a massive 210cm (6.88ft.), a Leptopterygius trigonodon (Leptonectes).

Victor von Scheffel (composer of the Franconian anthem, who died in 1886 and should have seen it) published the ‘Drinking Song number 677’, “Der Ichthyosaurus” (in: Allgemeines Deutsches Kommersbuch), which –rendered into English– reads as follows (note: the missing verses 6 and 7, which I added here, clumsily translated by myself):


‘The rushes are strangely rustling,
The ocean uncannily gleams,
As with tears in his eyes down gushing,
An Ichthyosaurus swims.

‘He bewails the frightful corruption
Of his age, for an awful tone
Has lately been noticed by many
In the Lias formation shown.

‘The Plesiosaurus, the elder,
Goes roaring about on a spree;
The Pterodactylus even
Comes flying as drunk as can be.

‘The Iguanodon, the blackguard,
Deserves to be publicly hissed,
Since he lately in open daylight
The Ichthyosaura kissed.

‘The end of the world is coming,
Things can’t go on long in this way;
The Lias formation can’t stand it,
Is all that I’ve got to say!’

6. This way lamented the Ichtyosaur,
His feelings were rather chalky,
The last of his groans died away in fuming and sizzleing waves.

7. At that point in time Saurianism died out,
They were too deep into Cre(a)taceous,
And that, of course, finally sealed their fate.

And this petrifideal ditty?
Who was it this song did write?
‘Twas found as a fossil album leaf
Upon a coprolite.

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Comment by clio
2019-12-17 10:04:07

now I am really confused. I thought–despite the naming conventions for dinosaurs which are based in old (and false) identification of them being reptilian–the current accepted identification is that they are the ancestors of birds….so yes, not a mammal, but not a lizard either.

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Comment by Maud Karlsdottir
2019-12-17 11:43:22

A possible answer to the chicken-dinosaur conundrum, :chicken: :chicken: :chicken: :chicken:

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Comment by John Cooper
2019-12-17 12:20:13

So…is anyone going to preserve that specimen, or is interest limited to looking at a snapshot, guessing at the identification, and letting the sea wash it away?

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Comment by Jim
2019-12-17 12:35:46

There is something fishy about this.

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Comment by George
2019-12-17 23:51:32

@clio – I am no expert, of course that specimen should be fully preserved, but I can only guess, what you have identified as old or false. mE THINKS the following is correct:

“Reptiles” are a ‘paraphyletic’ taxon, as birds are usually not included, i.e. despite the fact that they derive from certain dinsaurs, they have a common ancestor with the other reptiles. However, the taxon of ‘Sauropsida’, which combines reptiles and birds, is referred to as ‘monophyletic’. Dinosaurs are reptiles, but they are no birds nor are they lizards. There were dinosaurs that looked like fish (‘ichthys’). Actually they almost appear like dolphins, who are mammals. A Penguin, contrastingly, is no fish nor is he a reptile or a dinosaur, he is a bird.

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Comment by Tim
2019-12-18 05:21:33

I wish I had a porpoise.

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Comment by Hugh O'Neill
2019-12-19 11:52:59

Going to jump in on the pedantry too, but ichthyosaurs are not dinosaurs

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Comment by George Marie
2019-12-21 05:14:28

This is truly an amazing find. A dog finding a mineralized fossil…thanks for sharing

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