Cue the Loch Ness Monster rumors!

The fossilized remains of a large 10m long ichthyosaur, a sea predator, has been found in the mud of a dried out region of a reservoir in England. Here is an artist’s reconstruction of what it might have looked like.

They concluded it was an ichthyosaur – a type of warm-blooded, air-breathing sea predator not unlike dolphins. They could grow up to 25 metres long and lived between 250 million and 90 million years ago.

“Usually we think of ichthyosaurs and other marine reptiles being discovered along the Jurassic coast in Dorset or the Yorkshire coast, where many of them are exposed by the erosion of the cliffs. Here at an inland location is very unusual.”

Rutland is more than thirty miles from the coast, but 200 million years ago higher sea levels meant it was covered by a shallow ocean.

To get a better sense of the size of this fossil, this photograph shows a person lying next to the outline of it.

These creatures are believed to have gone extinct about 90 million years ago. But I expect believers in the Loch Ness Monster to point to this discovery as suggesting that it supports their belief that good old Nessie could exist.

In my book The Great Paradox of Science, I use the Loch Ness Monster as an example of how scientists can arrive at confident conclusions about the non-existence of something like Nessie even though they cannot prove it. But such reasoned arguments count for little to those willing to seize upon anything, however unrelated, to support their cause. In this case, the discovery of a fossil of a large animal in a reservoir will be seen as sufficient for them to claim that Nessie could exist and for true believers. it is a short step from believing something could exist to believing that it does exist.


  1. moarscienceplz says

    So many people seem to be dissatisfied with the universe we live in. They latch on to ridiculous folktales of cryptoorganisms, or belief in crystal magic or wiccan spells (not to mention the billions that believe Jesus or Allah or YHVH will grant them immortality).
    The universe is amazing, just as it is!!! We humans are the winners of the greatest lottery that ever has been!!! LEARN about biology, or astronomy, or physics! Fight for Monarch butterflies, or wild salmon, or spiders!
    WAKE UP PEOPLE! We inherited a treasure beyond description, and we are losing it!!!

  2. tuatara says

    @2 moarscienceplz

    There is the problem, right there…

    We inherited a treasure beyond description

    I disagree.
    The Earth is not our inheritance. It does not belong to us: we belong to it.
    The Earth is our body, and our mind that springs from that.
    We are the Earth (micro-plastics and other persistent pollutants now included of course).
    The Earth will swallow us as it swallowed these, our remarkable ancestors of distant antiquity.
    We are lucky to be here at all. It is a treasure indeed.

  3. moarscienceplz says

    @tuatara #4
    You misunderstand me. Or, maybe, you understand “inheritance” from a hyper-capitalism viewpoint.
    First off, I am a total atheist, so when I talk about “inheritance”, I really mean total dumb luck. Maybe a species with our self-understanding could have evolved in a less-complex universe, or maybe not. Neverless,we are here in an utterly astounding point in the space-time continuum. We do NOT own it, yet we can observe it and be astounded by it.
    THAT is what I meant by “inheritance”.

  4. tuatara says

    @5 moarscienceplz
    Thanks for clarifying your intended meaning. I took you literally against the meaning I understand of the word “inherit” as being “to receive as possession or right from and ancestor” and I include our genetic, sensory, linguistic, cultural and technological inheritances in that. It is not hyper-capitalist sentiment, just what the word seems to mean at its root.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not picking an argument with you. I agree with the sentiment of the amazing nature of the earth and of the astonishing (good)? luck of being here and now. When I look at the world I don’t see it as an “it”, I see it as an “us” (all of life on the planet), and I see myself as a small and temporarily animated piece of the Earth. This is not a religious view (I also am an atheist). Basic chemistry backs this viewpoint up.
    Just because we are here now doesn’t mean it wasn’t utterly astounding before we evolved. I am sure that the Earth has been utterly astounding for billions of years, and I am sure that many life forms here find it astounding too in their own way.

  5. markp8703 says

    I believe the supine man in wellies is the dig’s leader.

    He Tweeted that as a child he’d dreamed of leading an ichthyosaur dig.

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