There are requests for the reptile star in Attenborough’s hit show to be given the name of the person who discovered it.
A movement has begun to name a reptile, featured in Sir David Attenborough’s recent documentary, after the amateur fossil hunter who discovered it. This comes after concerns that he was not given proper recognition in the BBC program.
The documentary “Attenborough and the Giant Sea Monster,” which received high praise, has faced backlash for only acknowledging Philip Jacobs, the discoverer of the pliosaur skull, in the credits at the conclusion of the show.
Jacobs expressed shock and disappointment on his Facebook profile, stating, “I am astounded that my own discovery has been completely disregarded and not even acknowledged. I am at a loss for words.”
In April 2022, while walking along the beach at Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset, he came across the fossilized snout of a 150-million-year-old pliosaur. This discovery led to a meticulous effort to uncover the rest of the skull, which measures 2 meters (6 feet 5 inches), from the nearby cliffs. The process was documented by Attenborough and the BBC. It is believed that this specimen belongs to a previously unknown species of pliosaur.
Jacobs, 69, an artist and textile designer, provided video footage of the moment the fossil was discovered and was interviewed by the BBC but during the film he was only referred to as a “fossil enthusiast”.
In just one day, a petition urging for more acknowledgement of Jacobs had accumulated over 600 signatures.
According to Anna Morell, the individual who initiated the petition, this discovery is being hailed as one of the most important fossils ever unearthed. It stands out for its distinctiveness, enormous size, and overall significance.
Philip’s name is being erased from history despite his contributions as a citizen scientist. Those in positions of power often overlook or remove the names of lesser-known individuals from the records. The fossil should be named after Philip and the BBC should update the program to include his name.
Palaeontologist, author, and presenter Dr. Dean Lomax praised Philip Jacobs for his discovery and efforts to preserve it for scientific research. He expressed disappointment in the BBC for not acknowledging Jacobs by name.
According to Wolfgang Grulke, a palaeontologist from Dorset, this is not the first time this has occurred. He mentions Mary Anning as an example, a fossil collector from the 19th century whose contributions were often overlooked due to the male-dominated nature of the field. Grulke also acknowledges the importance of collectors in this field.
The archaeologist Phil Eyden sent a sympathetic message to Jacobs: “Credit where credit is due … The world owes you a huge debt for recovery of this fossil. The BBC owes you an apology, it won’t make up, but I hope you get one. Your contribution to science will not be forgotten though, no matter the BBC’s editorial decision.”
Jacobs, a resident of West Bexington in Dorset, has been passionately searching for fossils for four decades. While exploring with his partner, Helen, he came across an unusual rock. Upon closer examination, he recognized it as the snout of a pliosaur. Instead of keeping the fossil, Jacobs buried it and used driftwood to mark the location before seeking assistance.
Steve Etches, the specialist, assisted in the discovery of the remaining pliosaur fossil. The specimen was recently exhibited at the Etches Museum in Dorset and attracted a record-breaking 500 visitors on its first day.
A representative from the BBC stated that they collaborated with Philip Jacobs to feature his discovery film in the documentary, and he was given credit at the end. The main focus of the program was on the excavation, preparation, and scientific examination of the entire pliosaur skull.