‘The find of a lifetime’ - Man stumbles across 160 million-year-old ‘sea dragon’ fossil

Chris Donovan holding his 160 million-year-old 'Sea Dragon' fossil, posing in front of a full pliosa

Chris Donovan holding his 160 million-year-old 'Sea Dragon' fossil, posing in front of a full pliosaurus jaw at the University of Cambridge. Inset is a photo of 'Doris the Pliosaurus', a recreation of the dinosaur at Bristol Museum. Photo: Chris Donovan / Derek Harper (Geograph). - Credit: Archant

An avid walker and stone collector stumbled across the 'find of a lifetime' when he discovered a 160 million-year-old fossil.


Chris Donovan, 41, was walking through the outskirts of Bungay looking for flints to add to his collection when he came across what looked like a large piece of stone laying on the floor.

He picked it up, put it on his shelf at home, and didn't think anything of it - until he started to show friends who were 'baffled' by the find.

"It looked like fossilised wood, it was heavy like metal, and clearly very old. I wasn't quite sure but knew it was special," he said.

"I took it to fossil fairs and people were baffled by it, so I took it to Sedgwick Museum at the University of Cambridge, and it turned out to be a 160 million-year-old pliosaurus jaw bone!"


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Pliosaurs, which hold the nickname "Jurassic sea dragons", were massive marine reptiles between six and 15 metres long, with a bite four times as powerful as a T-Rex, that roamed the seas approximately 150 million years ago.

Mr Donovan added: "I'm just so happy, it's the find of a lifetime, my two children have exploded.

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"I found it in August, it took a good four months to confirm what it was. Everybody is blown away that something so old and so massive is blowing around near Bungay."

The fossil was found in a field between Bungay and St Margaret's South Elham.

Palaeontologists from Cambridge University were able to confirm the fossil was a pliosaurus jaw bone after comparing it with another held in their collection.

Mr Donovan, who is the managing director of Shellshock Fireworks, said: "They said they were really surprised at the location I found it in. They believe it was picked up by a glacier, coming from further inland, so they were really excited to have it.

"When this area was all seabed they would have lived here, but they're commonly found off the Dorset coast.

"They didn't want it for their own collection - they photographed it and documented it - and said it was a great find. Then they gave it back to me with authentication paper saying what it is."

Mr Donovan said he will definitely be keeping the fossil, and added: "First thing I'm going back to look for the rest of it."

A spokesman for the Sedgwick Musuem said: "If you have your own mystery rocks and fossils, the Sedgwick Museum offer a free identification service to all our visitors - call or email ahead of your visit to arrange a date and time."

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