Presenting… A plesiosaur named Eve

Introducing a newly-discovered marine reptile from the Jurassic period.
From 24 May to 25 July

plesiosaur flipper

Eve’s left fore-flipper: plesiosaurs had four wing-shaped flippers that they used to ‘fly’ through the water. Their unique swimming style was unlike that of any living animal, and it is not yet fully understood.

During the Jurassic period, from around 200 million to 145 million years ago, the Earth’s climate was hotter and there was little or no ice at the poles. Most of the UK was covered in a warm, shallow sea, teeming with life. Dinosaurs ruled the land, but the ocean was the realm of swimming reptiles, such as plesiosaurs…

In 2014, palaeontologists from the Oxford Clay Working Group unearthed a small fossil ‘finger’ bone at the bottom of a quarry near Peterborough. This single bone led to the discovery of a lifetime: a rare, nearly complete, 165 million year old plesiosaur skeleton.

The palaeontologists nicknamed the 5.5 metre-long reptile ‘Eve’, because it was their first major find. However, we don’t know if it was male or female, and possibly never will. The specimen is now being studied at the Museum, and may prove to be a previously unknown species.

Eve was found in a type of rock known as the Oxford Clay. The clay extends in a band across the middle of the country from Dorset in the south, through Oxford and up to North Yorkshire, reaching nearly 185 metres deep in places. It is well known for its exceptionally preserved fossil reptiles including dinosaurs, ichthyosaurs and thalattosuchians, which are extinct relatives of today’s crocodiles.

Eve was kindly donated to the Museum’s collections by quarry owners Forterra in November 2015.

Artist's plesiosaur

Artist’s impression of a long-necked plesiosaur, similar to Eve. Illustration by Nobumichi Tamura.

Other features from our Presenting... series
William Burchell
Bruno Debattista’s horseshoe crab trace fossil
Fulgurites
Museum memories
A space traveller’s arrival
Alfred Russel Wallace
William Smith
The science of disguise
Our new Collections Manager - Hilary Ketchum
The Breath of Life
Pine cones, great and small
Charles Darwin's insects
Megalosaurus
The Oxford Dodo
Fossils of the Gault Clay
Madagascar
A wartime gift
The other Audubon
The wonderful diversity of bees

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