This Famous Tongue Twister Is Actually About Dinosaurs

"She sells seashells by the seashore" isn't the whole story.

You've all probably heard or stumbled over the famous tongue twister... "She sells seashells by the seashore."  Those six words tell a little known story about the early days of paleontology and one of its most important and influential participants; Mary Anning. But, first, let's start with "the seashore." 

The seashore the tongue twister references is actually a 95 mile stretch of shoreline in Dorset County, UK, that is impressively nicknamed "the Jurassic Coast." It's the only place in the world that shows a complete 185 million year slice of history as seen in the layers of its towering cliffs. The rocks and beaches are full of fossils and remains not only from the Jurassic, but also the Triassic and Cretaceous. And it was here, in the early 19th century, where we started to realize that not only was there such a thing as "millions of years ago," but that once upon a time... there were such things as dinosaurs. And one of the people who helped us figure this out is the "she" in this tongue twister.

Mary Anning was born and raised in the Dorset area, and from an early age she collected and sold fossils, that, yes, were kind of like seashells. After her father died when Mary was just 10 years old, she continued to help support her family by finding, identifying and selling fossils to collectors and tourists.

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