Fossil found in Colin Glen Park
by NEIL GREENLEES
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
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
"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
"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
"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.