Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland



Fossil found in Colin Glen Park


Education Ranger Paul Bennett with the fossil believed to be about 200 million years old-found on the banks of the Colin River.

Education Ranger Paul Bennett with the fossil believed to be about 200 million years old-found on the banks of the Colin River.

A FOSSIL dating from the Jurassic Age has been discovered in Colin Glen Forest Park.

The find made by Education Ranger Paul Bennett on the banks of the Colin River is believed to be the fossilised vertebra of an approximately 200 million year old plesiosaur, a reptile often associated with the legendary 'Loch Ness Monster'.

These long-necked, carnivorous sea reptiles ruled the world's oceans during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods between 200 and 65 million years ago.

Artists impressions of them bear a striking resemblance to modern images of 'Nessie'.

The fossil clearly shows a perfectly preserved vertebra. Two dimples in the side along with its shape and size confirm it as being from a plesiosaur.

Mr. Bennett found the fossil as he was carrying out river studies near the Weir Bridge: "I was evaluating sites for local schools to carry out river studies when I came across the exposed vertebra on the river bed," he explained.

"The Colin River is rich in fossils so I always keep an eye out for them."

The Education Ranger took his find to the Ulster Museum where an expert confirmed it was a plesiosaur fossil.

"I initially thought it could be a plesiosaur because of its size and shape but I tried not to get too excited until I had it confirmed in case it turned out to be something else," added Mr. Bennett.

Dr Michael Simms, a curator of palaeontology at the Ulster Museum who examined the fossil, confirmed it formed part of the backbone of a plesiosaur which would have existed in Ireland between 150 and 200 million years ago.

"I estimate it to be around 190 million years old," he said.

"The find is very interesting because fossils of this nature are very scarce in Northern Ireland and they have never been discovered in the Belfast area before. "Any similar fossils in Northern Ireland tend to have been found in exposed rock on the North Antrim Coast. Dr. Simms described the find as "very lucky.

"It could be that further remains exist in the Colin Glen area," he added.

Colin Glen Trust Chief Executive Tim Duffy described the find as "further evidence of the Trust's importance in preserving the natural historical environment within the Glen.

"To find a fossil of this age and rarity in Northern Ireland demonstrates the extensive work the Colin Glen Trust has carried out along with the Environmental and Heritage Service and Big Lottery Fund in preserving this area of natural historical importance," he added.

Ulster Star