Warm, Shallow, Seas

Jurassic 145-213 million years ago

This part of the exhibition has amazing marine reptiles from the Jurassic Period.. The remains of plesiosaurs, sea crocodiles such as Steneosaurus and ichthyosaurs fill the cases, including several discovered by famous fossil collector Mary Anning. These are displayed alongside ammonites, sea urchins and starfish. Many of these fossils were found locally in the Oxford Clay rocks of Cambridgeshire. Also on display are a remarkable range of fossils preserved in the Solnhofen limestones of Bavaria, Germany, which formed on the bottom of a shallow tropical lagoon. These quiet conditions favoured preservation, so the level of detail is remarkable. These rocks are famous for the fossil of Archaeopteryx – one of the earliest known feathered creatures. A cast is displayed in this part of the gallery.


Ichthyosaurs are extinct marine reptiles with a dolphin-like body shape. Well preserved and sometimes complete fossils were amongst the first large fossil animal remains to be discovered in the early 19th Century, some time before the dinosaurs. Ichthyosaurs and other groups of extinct marine reptiles, such as the plesiosaurs, were known as 'monsters of the abyss'.
 Mary Anning

In the early 19th century, the Anning family collected fossils from the seacliffs around Lyme Regis in Dorset. Both mother and daughter were called Mary and it is the daughter, Mary (1799-1847), who is best known as a collector because she found some remarkable and important fossils which were bought by famous palaeontologists of the time, such as Adam Sedgwick. 

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