Established local fossil hunters were left gobsmacked when a day-tripper snatched a 200-million-year-old dinosaur from under their noses.
The man uncovered the skeleton of a 5ft-long ichthyosaur – a giant, toothy marine reptile that resembled a dolphin – embedded in rocks at Charmouth Beach, near Lyme Regis.
The Boxing Day find, which could earn the enthusiast as much as £6,000 if he opts to sell, came at a popular spot just 500 metres from the heritage centre, surprising locals who regularly pass by.
Rick Taylor, who works in the Charmouth Fossil Shop, admitted the discovery had been “a bit galling” for some.
“I have walked past the spot most days, as has Tony Gill who owns the shop,” he added.
“I believe this guy usually goes to Monmouth beach, and the first or second time he wanders along this beach he ends up finding the thing.
“To be honest there are usually four or five complete examples of these every year and its mainly luck – maybe the sea washed a bit of sand away and exposed the ledge.” The Jurassic coast is renowned for fossils and particularly for the ichthyosaur.
Famed Lyme Regis fossil hunter Mary Anning, who was named by the Royal Society as the third most influential female scientist in British history, discovered the skeleton of the first ichthyosaur to be recognised locally.