Elasmosaurus Fossil Discovered in Alaska
The fossilised remains of a giant marine reptile have been uncovered by scientists in Alaska. The fossils representing an Elasmosaurus, an animal that belongs to the Plesiosaur family, were found by an amateur fossil hunter who was hiking in the Talkeetna Mountain range when he came across several fragments of fossilised bone that had fallen down from a hillside. Realising their importance, he recorded the location and contacted palaeontologists based at the University of Alaska Museum of the North who subsequently excavated the articulated remains.
Elasmosaurus had an extremely long neck. It superficially resembles the mythical Loch Ness Monster (believed by some to be a Plesiosaur). No fossils of an Elasmosaurus have been found this far north before.
At Home in the Seas of the Late Cretaceous
Picture Credit: James Havens
At an estimated eight metres in length, the fossils, which include impressive cervical vertebrae (neck bones), represent a substantial marine creature, one that would be about the size of an extant female Orca (Orcinus orca), although about 50% of the animal’s body length would have been made up of that very long neck. Humans have just seven neck bones (cervical vertebrae), whilst Elasmosaurs had more than seventy.
Excavating the Elasmosaurus Fossil Bones and Preparing them for Transport
Picture Credit: Patrick Druckenmiller
The picture above shows field team members from the University of Alaska Museum of the North wrapping the fossilised bones in plaster and sack cloth as they prepare to transport the fossils back to the preparation laboratory in Fairbanks (Alaska).
A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:
“This is a significant fossil find. Ammonites and other invertebrate fossils are relatively common in the Talkeetna range, but to find the preserved remains of an Elasmosaur is really special. It is not known at this stage whether this specimen represents a new species of marine reptile. In addition, it is hoped that a study of the bones and the matrix surrounding them will help scientists to obtain data that helps them to determine whether this creature was a resident or a transient, seasonal visitor to the seas this far north.”
Despite the very short excavation window, the scientists have managed to remove a substantial number of fossils. It is hoped that a field team will be sent out next summer to further explore the area in a bid to find skull material which would aid the scientists immensely in their research.