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Everybody loves dinosaurs, and we wouldn't know nearly as much as we do if it weren't for a person named Mary Anning.

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Who loves dinosaurs?

I know you do, Squeaks, and I do, too! Dinosaurs were just one kind of awesome reptile that lived on Earth a long time ago.

There were also reptiles that flew, called pterosaurs, and all kinds of giant creatures of the sea, like plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs! And we wouldn’t know nearly as much as we do about these amazing animals today, if it weren’t for a person by the name of Mary Anning. Mary Anning was born in England over 250 years ago.

She never went to school, but she learned how to write and read. And she spent a lot of her life reading books -- books about our favorite topic here at the Fort — science! Some of her favorite science books were about rocks.

Others were about animals — ones that she saw in her own backyard, and ones that lived a long time ago. When Mary was a young girl, her family lived near the ocean. So, when she wasn’t busy reading, she would take walks along the cliffs near the sea and collect shells to sell to visitors.

And she also was always on the hunt ... for fossils! Fossils are the left-over parts of plants and animals that lived a long time ago. And when I say a long time ago...

I mean a long time ago! Millions of years ago, the Earth looked pretty different from how we know it today. If you look at a picture of what scientists think the Earth looked like then, you can see that a lot of the world was covered with water.

And millions of years ago, the ocean was full of lots of different kinds of plants and animals than you see today. When these things died, parts of them fell to the bottom of the ocean and were buried under sand and rock. Over a long time, these parts left behind fossils.

Fast forward to today! Most of the animals and plants that were alive then are now extinct, which means there aren’t any of them alive anymore. And the Earth has changed since then, too!

Some of the parts of the world that used to be under the ocean aren’t anymore...including where Mary lived, in England! So when she took her walks along the beach, she was able to find lots of fossils left behind by things that lived in the ocean millions of years ago. And that’s why, when Mary Anning was only twelve years old, she discovered the fossil of a big, extinct animal that lived in the ocean.

She and her eleven year old brother found the entire skeleton of an extinct reptile called an ichthyosaur. Do you think an ichthyosaur looks like another animal? I agree, Squeaks!

Like fish and dolphins, this animal had fins and flippers to help it swim in the ocean. Don’t be fooled, though — the ichthyosaur wasn’t a fish, and it wasn’t a mammal, like dolphins are. Ichthyosaurs were reptiles, like snakes and lizards.

Now, the ichthyosaur wasn’t Mary Anning’s only excellent discovery! She was also the first to discover a whole skeleton of another extinct reptile—the plesiosaur. Like the ichthyosaur, the plesiosaur lived in the ocean.

And check it out! When people first saw the skeleton that Anning had found, some people didn’t believe it was real! Because Anning didn’t study science in school, many scientists at the time didn’t think that her work should be taken seriously.

But that didn’t stop her. She kept looking...and learning...and making drawings of the fossils that she found. All of these things helped get other people interested and excited about her discoveries.

And there’s one more mystery about ancient animals that Mary Anning solved. While she was studying fossils of ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs, she found some small, strange stones among the animals’ bones. Other scientists had found them, too, and they didn’t know what they were, either.

But Anning was curious about them, and decided to break them open to see what was inside. And what she found inside was — even smaller bones of other kinds of animals, like fish and other sea creatures. She realized that the small stones were a whole new kind of fossil...fossilized poop!

Those weird little rocks contained the bits of animals that those old ocean reptiles had eaten! Mary Anning’s work taught us a lot about what life was like millions of years ago -- even though that life often looked strange compared to the living things we know today. She spent her life looking at the world around her...reading...asking questions...and learning everything she could about science.

Hey, it sounds like she’d fit right in here at the Fort! Thanks for joining me on SciShow Kids. If you have a question for us, ask a grownup to help you to leave us a comment on this video, or to send an email to!