An incredible 200 million-year-old dinosaur fossil found by a pet dog on a beach has finally gone on display 16 years later.
Rescue dog Raffle stumbled across the fossilised skeleton of a Jurassic plesiosaur during a walk with owner Tracey Barclay at Lyme Regis, Dorset, in 2007.
The nine-year-old dog happened to take a brief rest on top of the exposed vertebra bone of the creature which was then spotted by Tracey, an amateur fossil hunter.
Permission was granted to dig it up a year later and it has taken experts 15 years of painstaking and intricate preparation to get the skeleton ready for display
It has now gone on public display at the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre near Lyme Regis, the seaside town made famous by pioneering palaentologist Mary Anning.
Plesiosaurs were long-necked marine reptiles that had powerful paddle-like limbs which allowed them to swim through the water.
Some of the earliest well-preserved specimens in the world have been discovered in Dorset. The first ever complete plesiosaur was found at Lyme Regis by Mary Anning in 1824.
The rare skeleton found by Raffle had been preserved within the famous ammonite pavement at Monmouth Beach over millions of years.
Tracey and her partner Chris Moore, who runs a fossil preparation business, monitored it for 12 months and natural erosion revealed more of the vertebrae.
They then got permission from Natural England to extract it.
The fossil went through the time-consuming process of being acid washed and the bones mapped, restored and prepped for mounting.
The plesiosaur, which is 10ft 6in long, is 70 per cent complete, with missing bones cast and modelled from the other existing bones.
It is one of just a few 3D Lower Jurassic plesiosaurs in the world.
‘I was out for a walk with my partner and some friends. I stayed back on the pavement while they all walked on and Raffle was sat in front of me,’ said Tracey, 59.
‘When he got up he started scratching at the ground. I know about fossils and I could see it was some vertebrae he had found,’
‘It is quite common to find just a few vertebrae so I did a bit of scratching to see if there was anymore to it,’
Tracey found a specific paddle bone for a plesiosaur which made her hopeful there would be more. The main problem was it was in the ammonite pavement which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
‘Chris came back and confirmed it was a plesiosaur then we had to watch it for a while to make sure there was more. The extraction we had to do over two tides and then bit by bit we have been working on it,’ she said.
The couple had to send it to Yorkshire for the acid prep, which takes a long time.
‘It has been a real team effort, so many people have been involved. It’s quite an exciting thing to see it finally on display, it looks amazing,’
The plesiosaur, a marine reptile that thrived in the Jurassic seas off what is now Dorset, has been affectionately called Raffle after its canine finder who died in 2013.
‘It seems only right to name it after Raffle, after all, it was his find.’
‘There are only a handful of these 3D specimens in the world so this was a very rare find,’ said Grant Field, from the heritage centre.
‘It’s the sort of thing you would get in the natural history museums in London or New York so for it to stay local amongst other great local specimens shows how special the fossils of Lyme Regis and Charmouth really are,’
‘Our centre is free to enter so everyone can come along and see Raffle the plesiosaur.’