The Swanage crocodile with Chris Moore left, Richard Edmonds centre and Steve Etches right. © Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site
A remarkable crocodile skull unearthed earlier this year by a fossil hunter walking along the Jurassic coast of Swanage has gone on display at the Swanage Museum and Heritage Centre.
The skull, which dates back 130 million years, was discovered in April 2007 by Richard Edmonds, Earth Science Manager for the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site team jutting out of the cliff after a recent rock fall.
“This was a really lucky find,” explained Richard. “A part of my job is to monitor the condition of the rocks and fossils along the World Heritage Site but you don't expect to find something this spectacular without spending a lot more time on the coast. The back of the skull was lying in the rubble on the beach and the rest was trapped in the cliff fall.”
Fossil collectors Steve Etches and Chris Moore assisted with the recovery of the loose section and after a short period of cleaning it became apparent that this was a very well preserved specimen.
Richard approached the landowner, Swanage Town Council together with Natural England for permission to recover the rest of the skull and the two pieces were eventually re united and carefully prepared by Chris and his son Alex at their workshop in Charmouth.
At an impressive 58cm long the skull fossil is very well preserved and is probably of the crocodile Goniopholis, the earliest ancestor to the modern crocodiles. It lived in swamps and lagoons during the Cretaceous period and shared its environment with dinosaurs such as Iguanadon.
Only the skull was found because when the animal died, the soft parts rotted away and then the bones were scattered before being buried.
At the end of the summer, the specimen will be made available to experts at the Natural History Museum and Bristol University in order to determine its scientific importance.