Television Documentary on Ichthyosaurs Scheduled for BBC One

A television documentary exploring the life of a remarkable Ichthyosaur is due to be shown on BBC 1 on the evening of Sunday 7th January.  Entitled “Attenborough and the Sea Dragon”, this hour-long programme follows the excavation of an Early Jurassic Ichthyosaur fossil on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset.  Sir David Attenborough, a keen fossil hunter himself, joins a team of experts as they attempt to excavate the fossilised remains and piece together the life story of an ancient sea monster.

A Computer-Generated Image of an Ichthyosaur

A monster of the deep - Ichthyosaurus.

A computer generated image of an Ichthyosaur.

Picture Credit: BBC Media

A Giant Sea Dragon

The fossilised remains, believed to represent the largest Ichthyosaur known from the British Isles, were discovered by Dorset fossil hunter Chris Moore in 2016.  The documentary programme will include a segment in which the fossil bones are scanned and a replica skeleton of the 200 million-year-old “fish lizard” is created.  By examining the bones, the team hope to bring this prehistoric sea creature’s story to life.

Fossil Hunter Chris Moore with Some Blocks of the Ichthyosaur Material

Dorset Fossil Hunter Chris Moore.

Chris Moore with some of the blocks containing the Ichthyosaur fossils.

Picture Credit: Richard Austin

Chris spotted the fossil material eroding out of a high cliff and the material had to be removed before the winter storms hit, otherwise the rare fossils would have been lost forever.

The extraordinary fossil includes skin impressions, this leads to new revelations about how these predators might have looked.   As the story unfolds, Sir David compares the sea dragon to animals alive today, including dolphins, sharks, crocodiles and turtles.

A 200 Million-Year-Old Murder Mystery

As more of the fossil bones are revealed the scientists make a startling discovery.  This Ichthyosaur did not die of natural causes, it was attacked, but what fearsome beast could have killed this giant?  Using techniques more at home in a police forensics laboratory than a paleo-preparation lab, the team piece together evidence that points the figure of suspicion at another huge Ichthyosaur – a seven-metre-long monster called Temnodontosaurus.

A Replica of a Temnodontosaurus (T. platydon) A Giant, Viviparous Ichthyosaur

CollectA Temnodontosaurus platyodon model.

Detailed Ichthyosaur figure. Temnodontosaurus platyodon.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Using state of the art imaging technology and cutting-edge CGI the team build the skeleton and create the most detailed animation of an Ichthyosaur ever made, bringing this Lyme Regis discovery to life as well as reconstructing its fate.

Programme Details

The one-hour television documentary is confirmed for BBC One on Sunday 7th January 8pm to 9pm.

It’s going to be well-worth watching.

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