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Plesiosaur Cervical Vertebrae Fossil

In 1994, a local farmer from Loth, six miles south of Helmsdale, made the exciting discovery of a fossil vertebrae on the beach, below his farm. The heavy fossil weighed twenty pounds and comprised three cervical vertebrae fused together forming part a backbone section.

It was identified as belonging to a marine reptile known as a Plesiosaur, which lived in the sea during the mid Jurassic Period, around 157-152 million years ago.

The Jurassic land and sea scape looked quite different from today, with tropical ferns and ginkgo trees growing on the cliff tops and colonies of coral growing along a great barrier reef. There was a great variety of sea life including molluscs and large predatory marine reptiles.

Plesiosaurs had a board flat body and a short tail. Their limbs had evolved into four long flippers, which were powered by strong muscles attached to wide bony plates formed by the shoulder girdle and the pelvis. The flippers made a flying movement through the water. Plesiosaurs breathed air, and bore live young. There are also indications that they were warm-blooded.

The Jurassic coastline at Helmsdale has many interesting geological features and is well worth a visit to explore the rocky foreshore.