Men find 180-million-year-old jaws and teeth from sea reptile: The Ichthyosaur

Amy Christie

A pair of friends who usually look for fossils uncovered a significant discovery that's been 180 million years in the making. The two men were searching the glacial till that makes up England's eastern coastal cliffs when they stumbled upon the unique find.

What are the details?

Mark Kemp, 34, is a professional fossil preparator and finder. He also has a friend who shares his passion for fossil search, and together they often go exploring the cliff line of Holderness, northwest of Hull, located between Mappleton and Cowden.

This particular section of the coast is comprised of different types of sediment deposits coming from once-massive glaciers, melted since then and has been known to yield bones of prehistoric reptiles and dinosaurs, according to The Epoch Times.

As they were out looking for remnants of dinosaurs, Kemp's companion suddenly noticed a glacial erratic, a large piece of rock that had been deposited from elsewhere. And it had a fossil that looked different from anything they'd seen before.

"My friend shouted me over, asking for my advice on something; as soon as I spotted the rock in question, I knew there was something special about it. I instantly knew there was bone and teeth inside, and we both agreed the block should be taken by me and prepped immediately," Kemp said.

They took the rock to Kemp's workshop in Hull, where he meticulously etched the rock away and managed to reveal huge conical teeth that he learned were a partial jaw section of a temnodontosaurus, a sea reptile from the Jurassic Period, dating even before the dinosaurs.

Besides the massive teeth, the predatory sea reptile had a robust and elongated snout, very large eyes for hunting, hind fins and fore fins of equal size to steer, plus a dorsal fin in the shape of a triangle. The vertically aligned tail was its primary propulsion means.

"These were extremely large creatures that could have easily grown up to 40 feet. They had enormous jaw strength, which had a crushing power more than modern-day saltwater crocodiles. They roamed the seas 180 million years ago and were even about before the dinosaurs," Kemp explained after consulting Dr. Dean Lomax, who is a leading marine reptile paleontologist.

The particular temnodontosaurus specimen the men uncovered belongs to the ichthyosaur species, as Kemp revealed, and it is "one of the best examples of this species to come from Yorkshire."

Its name, "temnodontosaurus," comes from Greek and translates to "cutting-tooth lizard." Kemp estimated it to have had a two-meter-long skull based on the size of its teeth and how large the jaw was. It was also a full-sized adult specimen.

The man's fossil search hobby has been going on for over a decade, and he's gradually turned it into a profession by running his workshop from his house in Bransholme. He prepares the fossils and preserves them for any interested clients that stop by.

"Fossil hunting opens your mind to what life was like years ago. If you split a rock open and then discover a fossil, you know that you're the only human to have ever seen that fossil. My dream is to collect fossils coming from the far corners of the world and to discover what lies locked in time," he shared.

Kemp has uncovered several remarkable remains over the years, such as woolly mammoth bones, dinosaur footprints, cave bear jaws, anemones, shells, bison vertebrae, sponges, and corals recorded in rock from thousands of years ago.

He documents his finds on social media, where he includes examples of his fossil preparatory work.

"My collection has been growing larger in the past three years; at a rate that's a little scary. Soon I'm going to be in a situation where I need a bigger garage," he added.


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Amy Christie is a passionate writer and journalist, always striving to bring out the positive and create meaningful connections.

Dallas, TX

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