Fossils and Rocks
For thousands of years the Lyme cliffs have crumbled and fallen, revealing great numbers of fossils which have been washed out of the crumbling rock by the sea. In the days before palaeontology, people picked up these oddly shaped ‘stones’, seeing them as curiosities of nature, but until the early 19th century there was no scientific interest or understanding.
Lyme Regis was a centre for early pioneering palaeontologists, including Mary Anning, Henry de la Beche, William Buckland and William Conybeare.
The ‘Lias’ rock at Lyme was being quarried from the sea ledges in the early 19th century, mostly for making cement which would set underwater. This exposed large areas for fossil hunting.
George Roberts wrote in his Dictionary of Geology (1839) under the entry for Plesiosaurs:
“The great depository is Lyme Regis: the reason is, that a greater extent of Lias is there acted upon by the tide, and men, who break up the ledges; and so enable Miss Anning to perambulate a fruitful superficial extent of three miles long by one eighth of a mile broad.”
An overview of the palaeontological research at Lyme Regis Museum is available for download: Lyme Regis Museum Fossil Research (PDF, 350KB)
Fascinated by fossils? We certainly are. Our experts have put together some amazing fossil facts >
The Geology Gallery of Lyme Regis Museum features a newly-conserved coprolite (fossil dung) table owned by William Buckland.
An abridged version of “Dimorphodon and the Reverend George Howman’s noctivagous flying dragon: the earliest restoration of a pterosaur in its natural habitat” by David M. Martill of the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Portsmouth.
Over forty ammonites, mostly Promicroceras, with epifaunal worm tubes are discussed from the Lower Jurassic, Charmouth Mudstone Formation of Dorset.
An abridged version of the paper Fatally bitten ammonites from the Lower Lias of Lyme Regis by Museum Education Officer – Chris Andrew, Geologist – Paddy Howe, Trustee – Chris Paul and Steve Donovan.
Examples of what you might find on our Fossil Walks.
Examples of recent fossil finds in the Lyme Regis and Charmouth area.
Discover why Lyme Regis in Dorset is such a famous locality for fossil collecting that people still flock here 200 years after Mary Anning’s first famous discovery. That find was the marine reptile Ichthyosaurus, which she found with the help of her brother Joseph. Many other creatures from the early Jurassic swam with the Ichthyosaurs in the seas that covered Lyme Regis 200 million years ago. Species new to science are still being uncovered here. Discover more about some of these exciting finds.
Most fossils we find are the hard parts of creatures, such as their shells, bones and teeth. Only rarely are soft parts found preserved. So what did the fleshy parts of fossilised creatures look like and how do we Know?
Most people who come to Lyme Regis want to see fossils on the beach and hopefully find some fossils to take home with them. This will tell you a bit about the things you might see on the beach and although we cannot guarantee you a fossil we hope it makes your beach visit more enjoyable.
An Ichthyosaur, Temnodontosaurus Platyodon was found east of Lyme Regis by Mr Henry Ellis probably over 100 years ago and was donated to Lyme Regis Museum by Mrs Luttill in 1927. The composite specimen was prepared by David Costin in 1985 and a cast made which hangs in the museum’s Geology Gallery.
View a short film by Travis Graalman about Paddy Howe, the museum’s geologist, presented by Tracy Chevalier.
Whither the Anthropocene?
By Sir Crispin Tickell