The Oxford University Museum of Natural History may have something special on its hands: the remains of a new species of plesiosaur -- the long-necked, flippered marine reptile from the dinosaur era that disappeared some 66 million years ago.
The fossils, donated to the museum, were found in Cambridgeshire in the United Kingdom, an area grown famous in recent days for being the excavation site of "Britain's Pompeii," a Bronze Age settlement.
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A quarry near Peterborough surrendered the fossil bonanza -- a yield of more than 600 bone fragments.
"I'd never seen so much bone in one spot in a quarry. As I was digging amongst the wet clay, the snout of a plesiosaur started to appear in front of me," Carl Harrington, who made the find, told the museum's blog.
Harrington is a member of the Oxford Clay Working Group, which works with quarry land owners to protect and gather vertebrate fossils. "It was one of those absolute ‘wow' moments," he said. "I was the first human to come face to face with this reptile."
The specimen is estimated to be about 165 million years old and about 18 feet long (8 feet of it neck).
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Two things will happen next for the skeleton. It will be reconstructed so it can be suspended in a museum display. And, at the same time, it will undergo a rigorous investigation to see if it might be a species of plesiosaur previously unknown to man.
And the chances of that?
"Early indications suggest that it might be a species new to science," according to the museum.