New 'sea dragon' species discovered by amateur fossil hunter off English coast

An artist's impression of the new "sea dragon," Thalassodraco etches.

(CNN)A British fossil hunter has found a previously unidentified "sea dragon" on the southern English coast.

Steve Etches unearthed the well-preserved ichthyosaur fossil in limestone on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. He thought the fossil was so unusual that he gave it to experts at the University of Portsmouth, southern England, to study.
Megan Jacobs, a researcher at the University of Portsmouth and a PhD student at Baylor University, Texas, who has spent years working on ichthyosaurs, identified it as a new genus and species.
    The two-meter long ichthyosaurus, which lived 150 million years ago, has been named the "Etches sea dragon" (Thalassodraco etchesi).
    Etches said in a press release published by the University of Portsmouth Wednesday that he was honored the discovery was named after him.
    "It's excellent that new species of ichthyosaurs are still being discovered, which shows just how diverse these incredible animals were in the Late Jurassic seas," Etches added.
    Scientists have now identified five species of ichthyosaur from the Late Jurassic period in the UK.
    They are known as sea dragons because of their usually large teeth and eyes.
    Fossils of ichthyosaurs from this period are rare, according to Jacobs, but this one was well-preserved because it settled in a very soft seafloor when it died.
    This meant the front part of its body sunk into the mud, protecting it from scavengers that ate the tail end.
    Steve Etches pictured with a drawing of the newly identified Thalassodraco etchesi.