paleontology
Fossil tooth found on an English beach

Can someone identify the animal that this tooth came from (its about 10cm long) and set in sandstone. I found this on the beach at lime regis about 6 years ago. I found this on a family holiday to Lime Regis and have always thought of it as a sharks tooth, but as I have got older I realise that it is not (the shape of the root is wrong) and it is quite large at roughly 10cm from tip to tip so now I am trying to find out exactly what it is. —Paige

Fossil Collector: Paige R

Location: Lyme Regis, United Kingdom

[Editor: Very nice find! This appears to be a handsome mosasaur tooth. A mosasaur is a marine version of the modern monitor lizard some of which could achieve enormous size. The large root seems atypical for mosasaur teeth at this location so maybe collectors more familiar with Lyme Regis can leave a comment.]

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3 Responses to “Lyme Regis Mosasaur”

  1. don champagne says:

    Something seems amiss here. This is a very typical Moroccan mosasaur tooth, sold in rock shops worldwide. There is no way it is from Lyme Regis. First, mosasaurs evolved in the Upper Cretaceous, and Lyme Regis (and the whole area, which is referred to as the “Jurassic Coast”, is of Jurassic age. There were no mosasaurs in the Jurassic. Second, the rock at Lyme Regis is clay shale and limestone, both fine grained and dark gray or bluish gray in color. The matrix this fossil is set in is completely unlike any Cretaceous or Jurassic rock in the UK, and it is identical to the the matrix from the phosphate sand deposits of Morocco.

    Don’t take my word for it, just google “Morocco mosasaur tooth” and you will see many many examples. Google “Lyme Regis mosasaur” or “Jurassic mosasaur”, you’ll get no hits.

    One more thing, the matrix-filled gap between the tooth an the root is highly suspicious. Moroccan fossils are well known for the large number of composites and fakes. In the case of mosasaurs, they will very commonly take authentic but rootless or broken teeth and set them in a fake matrix (made from ground up phosphate sand mixed with glue) with a false “root” made from a random piece of bone fragment. The space between the real tooth and the fake root is filled with matrix/glue to make it look like it’s all one piece. In this case the “root” has the wrong shape, and you can see the porous texture of bone (a real root would not have this) with a small area of the original bone surface. You can see that the space between the tooth and root has been covered with “matrix”; in a real, complete tooth with the root the smooth enamel of the tooth would be seen to merge smoothly with the root with no gap. In the Moroccan phosphate sands shed/broken mosasaur teeth are common (and so very cheap, you can buy them for a couple of dollars) but authentic complete teeth are rare and quite valuable. No dealer would fail to clean matrix from the tooth/root junction of an authentic tooth as showing the tooth is complete would increase its value manyfold. Mosasaurs were able to replace old/worn/damaged teeth and continuously replaced teeth throughout life; old teeth were shed by resorbing the root, which explains why rootless (shed) teeth are common. Teeth with roots could only come out of the jaw of a carcass, and so they are usually associated with very valuable fossils such as complete skulls or skeletons.

    Perhaps the collector got this at a rock shop while visiting Lyme Regis, and confused it with Jurassic fossils they did pick up on the beach (likely ammonites and belemnites). The only possible way it could have been picked up on the beach is if someone put it there.

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  2. Scott says:

    Very good observations, thank you. It might have fallen from a bag or beach towel or perhaps someone was just photographing fossil at the beach. The recent source is likely from a gift shop. Thank you for your comment!

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  3. eric says:

    I think the tooth is real and it was probably abscessed at the root. No dinosaur dentists I guess?

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