Fossils from Dorset's Famous Heritage Coast

Mary Anning

Mary Anning (1799 - 1847) was one of the greatest British fossil collectors who have ever lived. She was born in very humble circumstances in Lyme Regis, Dorset, and lived there all her life.   At the age of only twelve she found the first recorded Ichthyosaur at Lyme Regis, and in later years found the first near complete Plesiosaur and first British specimen of a flying reptile, Dimorphodon.      

Mary Anning searching for fossils with her dog, Tray

Mary was a witness to the birth of the science of Palaeontology and, although she had virtually no schooling, she read all the scientific papers of the day and created perfect drawings of many of her finds.  She became so famous that she could count among her acquaintances William Buckland, the first Professor of Geology at Oxford University, Sir Henry de la Beche, the founder of the British Geological Survey, and Professor Richard Owen, one of the founders of the Natural History Museum in London.

Mary Anning is buried in Lyme Churchyard and her grave can be visited.  The tongue twister “She Sells Sea Shells by the Seashore” is actually written about Mary, and the sea shells were fossil sea shells she found!  We hope that, by joining our Fossil Walk, some of you may be inspired to follow in Mary’s footsteps.


Skeleton of the "Plesiosaurus" macrocephalus as drawn by William Buckland

Drawing of the nearly complete Plesiosaur skeleton found by Anning in 1823.



 Drawing from an 1814 paper by Everard Home for the Royal Society showing the skull of the Ichthyosaur found by the Annings.

Skeleton of Dimorphodon macronyx (After Owen)