BBC’s Documentary Sparks Outcry for ‘Erasing’ Fossil Discoverer in Attenborough’s Sea Monster Saga

BBC’s Documentary Sparks Outcry for ‘Erasing’ Fossil Discoverer in Attenborough’s Sea Monster Saga

Fossil Discovery and BBC’s “Attenborough and the Giant Sea Monster”

Phil Jacobs, a 69-year-old amateur fossil hunter, discovered a significant 150-million-year-old pliosaur snout at Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset, in April 2022.

His find led to the excavation of a 7ft long pliosaur skull and became a focal point of Sir David Attenborough’s BBC documentary, ‘Attenborough and the Giant Sea Monster,’ showcasing the discovery process.

BBC’s Alleged Omission and Backlash

Despite Jacobs’ pivotal role in identifying the fossil and the extensive contribution, the BBC faced criticism for failing to credit him adequately in the documentary.

Sir David Attenborough’s acknowledgment of the “romance” of fossil hunting did not mention Jacobs by name, referring to him merely as a “fossil enthusiast.” The BBC is now under scrutiny, with calls to rectify the omission and properly acknowledge Jacobs’ contribution.

Palaeontology Community’s Reaction

Respected palaeontologists and naturalists expressed disappointment, labeling the oversight “inexcusable” and an “injustice” to Jacobs.

The incident is highlighted as part of a recurring pattern where institutions tend to overlook the vital role of amateur fossil hunters in major discoveries, potentially discouraging future contributions.

Calls for Acknowledgment and Naming Rights

An online petition emerged, urging the BBC to edit and re-release the documentary, acknowledging Jacobs for his pivotal role.

Additionally, there’s a plea to name the newly discovered pliosaur species after him, recognizing his significant contribution to the scientific community.

Jacobs’ Role and Museum’s Display

Jacobs, an artist and textile designer, unearthed the fossil during a beach walk with his partner, Helen. Instead of immediately retrieving it, he marked the spot and informed the Etches Collection Museum of Jurassic Marine Life, initiating the meticulous excavation process.

The skull, now on display at the museum, drew a record number of visitors, showcasing its exceptional preservation and detail.

BBC’s Response and Documentary Focus

The BBC defended its approach, asserting that Jacobs’ discovery film was included and acknowledged at the end of the documentary.

Emphasizing the focus on the excavation, preparation, and scientific analysis of the pliosaur skull, the BBC clarified its standpoint on the matter.

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