Whitby sea monster on public display

24/3/11    Isla Gladstone  Curator of Natural Science at the Yorkshire Museum in York with the fossil of the Ichtyosaur which is now on display at the Yorkshire Musem.
24/3/11 Isla Gladstone Curator of Natural Science at the Yorkshire Museum in York with the fossil of the Ichtyosaur which is now on display at the Yorkshire Musem.
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A giant sea monster discovered in Whitby has returned to the public eye after a 20-year hiatus.

After years of fund-raising, the huge fossilised remains are back on display at the Yorkshire Museum in York, and continue to serve as one of the world’s most impressive examples of such a creature.

At around eight metres in length, the infamous ichthyosaur is one of the biggest sea monsters ever discovered in the world, and lived 180 million years ago in the then tropical waters of North Yorkshire.

The species, Temnodontosaurus crassimanus, was discovered in Jurassic rocks near Whitby in 1857, and was acquired by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society who made it their active ambition to make sure the specimen remained in British public collection.

The striking display stands as the centrepiece of one of the museum’s rooms and is proving itself as a major highlight, attracting great interest and attention.

Isla Gladstone, the museum’s curator of Natural Science, said: “These are the remains of a huge creature which we think looked a bit like an enormous dolphin. It would probably have filled a similar role to the dolphin too, being an active hunter, seeking out squid-like creatures, fish and potentially other reptiles.

“It is rare to find such a complete example and we are delighted that we can now put all of it back on display for people to see.”

Getting the remains back on display has not been without its difficulties, and only began after a £20,000 grant from the PRISM fund was matched by the York Museums Trust.

The go-ahead was given to conservator, Nigel Larkin from Natural History Conservation, who has spent the last 12-months painstakingly returning the piece to a displayable standard.

However, the work continued as the hundreds of pieces had to be matched up and assembled in the correct order by Isla, Nigel and assistant curator, Stuart Ogilvy.

The creature’s eyes are thought to have been the largest in relation to body size.

Famous 19th Century palaeontologist, Richard Owen – who coined the word Dinosauria - named the creature .