One Man’s Passion

Dr Steve Etches MBE is a plumber by trade and began collecting fossils from the Kimmeridge Clay over 35 years ago. His fossil collecting began at the age of 5 with a flint fossil sea urchin which he found in his back garden. Completely self taught, what began as a hobby has now resulted in a collection of over 2300 fossils all from the Kimmeridge Clay and Kimmeridge locality, which were once housed in a converted garage at his home in Kimmeridge and are now on display in our amazing Heritage Lottery funded museum. Steve has become a renown expert on fossils from the Kimmeridge Clay, its has always been his wish to donate the collection to the nation so that generations can learn from the amazing specimens and their ‘Stories from Deep Time.’ Approximately 10% of the collection is on display - those specimens which are the most scientifically important and stunningly beautiful, fossils which show the evidence of their place in Earth’s history.

Steve has received numerous awards in recognition for his dedication to the world of Palaeontology to include:-

1993 – The Palaeontological Association's Award to Amateur Palaeontologists

1994 – the R. H. Worth Prize of the Geological Society

2005 – the Mary Anning Award of the Palaeontological Association

2006 – Halstead medal of the Geologists' Association

2014 – Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE)

2017 – Degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa – University of Southampton

Scientific Achievements

Steve has co-authored the following scientific publications and papers:-

  • Enay, Gallois & Etches Dec 2014 Review of Paleobiologie Geneve “Origin of Kimmeridgian - Tithonian Boreal Perisphinctid Faunas Migration & Descendants of the Tethian Genera Crussoliceras & Garniersphinctes”

  • Dorset Kimmeridge Clay Stratigraphy (Gallois & Etches 2001, Gallois & Etches 2010, Grange et al 1996)

  • Steve has also published a number of jointly authored papers on the fossils in his collection, including on predation (Clarke &Etches, 1991; Etches & Clarke 1993), the Kimmeridge Clay ammonite fauna (Énay et al., 2014; Gallois &Etches, 2010), ammonite eggs (Etches et al., 2009), and jointly described the monofenestratan pterosaur Cuspicephalus scarfi Martill and Etches, 2013 (see also Witton et al., 2015) and the metriorhynchid crocodylian Torvoneustes coryphaeus Young et al., 2013. Steve has also published a book describing his collecting activities and collection ‘Life in Jurassic Seas’ (Etches and Clarke, 2010).

The following six taxa have been named after Steve:-

  • the ichnotaxon Astacimorphichnus etchesi Wignall, 1991 (although the holotype does not lie within the Etches Collection)

  • an aeschnidiid dragonfly (MJML K619) Kimmeridgebrachypteraeschnidium etchesi Fleck and Nell, 2003

  • a cirripede (MJML K1261) Etcheslepus durotrigensis Gale, 2014 see also Gale 2014, 2018 in press

  • a pterosaur (MJML K1597) Rhamphorhynchus etchesi O’Sullivan and Martill 2015

  • a batoid ray Kimmerobatis etchesi Underwood and Claeson, 2018 (MJML K874, K 1894)

  • a muensterellid coleoid cephalopod Etchesia martilli Fuchs, 2018 (MJML K1802)

There are 10 brand new species in the collection (six of those are those named after Steve above) as well as :-

  • Cuspicephalus scarfi – Pterosaur

  • Torvoneustes coryphaeus- Crocodile

  • K321 Tolvericeras anglicum (holotype) – ammonite

  • K1715 Subdichotomoceras lamplughi dorsetense – ammonite

Three specimens in the collection have been described:-

  • referral of a large pliosaurid mandible (MJML K1) to Pliosaurus portentificus Noè et al., 2004, although this name is currently considered a nomen dubium (Knutsen, 2012)

  • tooth and postcranial material (MJML K181, K434) referred to Plesiosuchus manselii (Young et al., 2012)

  • description of a Rhamphorhynchin pterosaur jaw (MJML K1235) (Martill, 2014a)

The collection in 2015 at steve’s home

The collection in 2015 at steve’s home