At a time when women were expected to stay at home, several women were making scientific breakthroughs that gained them the respect and admiration of their colleagues. Mary Anning's skill at finding and collecting fossils helped develop the new subject of palaeontology. Mary Buckland's drawings helped spread this knowledge and led us to a new understanding of where we came from.

Belemnites were squid-like creatures with ten tentacles.  The fossilised part is the internal shell of the animal, unlike fossil ammonites where the shell is external.  A few very good fossil specimens have shown palaeontologists what the creature might have looked like when it was alive.  The largest belemnite shells found are around two metres long, which means the whole animal may have been up to four metres in length!

Download a large version of the picture here.

 belemnites drawing_500

Curriculum Links 


Working Scientifically


Lower key stage 2 Year 3

Art and Design:

To improve their mastery of art and design techniques


Scottish Curriculum


SCN 2-01a 

Planet Earth - Biodiversity and interdependence


SCN 2-17a

Materials - Earth's materials

Literacy and English


LIT 2-28a


Writing - Creating texts

I can convey information, describe events, explain processes or combine ideas in different ways.


LIT 2-29a

Writing - Creating texts

I can persuade, argue, explore issues or express an opinion using relevant supporting detail and/or evidence

Expressive arts

EXA 2-04a

Art and Design

icthyosaurFossils have been collected for thousands of years.  When we think of a fossil we usually imagine the shell-shaped fossils  - the most famous are probably ammonites - which gave early geologists a clue that these were once living animals.  But fossils can be animals, plants or even animal footprints or faeces (poo)!

Mary Anning would have learnt fossil hunting from her father, and she and her brother were known to go out along the Dorset coast finding fossils to sell to tourists. The picture shows a drawing of an ichthyosaur skull found by Mary Anning.

Two hundred million years ago, when any animals that lived in the sea died, their bodies would fall to the bottom.  On the sea bed, their bodies quickly became covered in mud.  Once buried, the soft parts of the animal decayed and disappeared, as more and more layers of mud lay on top of them.

This mud very slowly turned into stone, and the remaining hard parts of the creature - the bones and shells - slowly changed because of the pressure and the water seeping through the rock.  Eventually, millions of years later, the creature would be turned into a fossil.


What is it?

Lyme Regis in Dorset, where Mary Anning collected her fossils, is famous for the number of fossils you find on the beach.  Have a look at these ones.


These are known as belemnites.  Mary Anning discovered dried ink inside some of her fossils and by mixing it with water, it was possible to write with 200 million year old ink!

Can you imagine what type of animal had shells like this and contained ink? 

Draw a picture of what you think a belemnite might have looked like when it was alive.

Why not send your drawings into the Royal Society's education team? We would love to see your pictures of belemnites!