Fossilised Marine Reptile Vertebra, Haverhill

front side and back for vertebra

This is an unusual but fascinating object for the Suffolk Finds Recording Team, which was brought in for identification along with other metal detected finds.

Though we do not routinely record natural material such as fossils onto the Portable Antiquities Scheme database, unless there is evidence to suggest that they have been collected or modified by humans in some way, we are still happy to look at these finds and identify them where we can.

This particular fossil is something a little special – a rather worn and abraded Plesiosaur (large fish-eating marine reptile) vertebra from the Haverhill area. Its findspot is an interesting case study in geology and how fossils can be moved around by natural processes. This particular fossil probably dates somewhere around 175-160 million years ago, though the deposits within which it was found did not start to form for at least another 60 million years. This is certainly a ‘derived fossil’, eroded out of its original resting place and likely moved some distance through the action of glaciers.

Plesiosaurs were a particularly successful group of animals, flourishing during the Jurassic period and lasting right up until the massive Cretaceous/Palaeogene extinction event of c. 66 million years ago. Their sizes ranged across the various species from c. 1.5m to around 15m for the largest, though despite their sometimes-massive size they themselves were not always apex predators. Fossils have been found in the stomachs of larger marine reptiles, as well as examples showing bite marks originating from sharks.

Thank you to the finder for allowing this object to be featured.

This find was recorded by the Suffolk Finds Recording Team, supported by the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

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