LONDON -A near-complete ichthyosaur skeleton discovered on the Dorset coast after Christmas storms was hours away from destruction, fossil hunters have said. Storms uncovered the 1.5m (5ft) fossil at the base of Black Ven near Charmouth on Boxing Day.

The giant marine reptile fossil was painstakingly removed over eight hours, shortly before another storm was due. Professional fossil hunter Paul Crossley, who helped excavate it, said it was ‘a beautiful find’. ‘There was a very difficult, short window before another storm blew in so we were limited for time before it got ploughed out,’ he said.  With only part of the snout missing, but with most vertebrae and its rib cage in place, Mr Crossley said it was one of only a few ichthyosaur fossils found in such a complete condition.