Name: Atychodracon megacephalus
Meaning: Atychodracon means “unfortunate dragon”, while megacephalus translates to “big head.”
Age: The earliest Jurassic, about 200 million years ago.
Where in the world?: The Blue Lias Formation of England.
What sort of critter?: Atychodracon is a plesiosaur – a four-flippered marine reptile distinct from dinosaurs.
Size: Approximately 16 feet long.
How much of the creature’s body is known?: Casts of a complete skeleton, two partial skeletons, and an intact complete skeleton.
Claim to fame: Atychodracon was a casualty of war in WWII. On November 24th, 1940, German bombers hit the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, totally destroying the original, spectacular specimen. But all was not lost. Thanks to photos and casts made of the skeleton, palaeontologist Adam Smith has been able to determine that this animal – originally described as a species of Plesiosaurus – belonged to a previously unknown genus of. And while the original skeleton cannot be replaced, fossil finders have turned up additional specimens of Atychodracon. The “unfortunate dragon” is not totally lost.
Smith, A. 2015. Reassessment of ‘Plesiosaurus’ megacephalus (Sauropterygia: Plesiosauria) from the Triassic-Jurassic boundary, UK. Palaeontologia Electronica 18.1.20A: 1-20. doi: