Miners in Alberta, Canada, were searching for the rainbow-colored gemstone called ammolite when they instead discovered a well-preserved fossil of a mosasaur – or more specifically, a Tylosaurus. The marine reptile that lived 70 million years ago with the dinosaurs was unearthed in a part of the province that had previously been underwater many years ago, under the Western Interior Seaway that stretched from the Arctic Sea all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Tylosaurus has been nicknamed the “T-Rex of the sea” because of its large size and frightening nature. They could grow up to 50 feet long with their huge head taking up approximately one-sixth of their entire weight.
The workers who found the sea creature were from Enchanted Designs Limited which is a company that makes jewelry out of ammolite that comes from the fossilized shells of ammonites (extinct marine mollusk with a round shell and who were distant relatives of the nautilus).
The crew was mining in the Bearpaw Shale rocks when they came upon the remains of the Tylosaurus. It was pretty well-preserved because it had been inside of a soft black-shale mudstone. Donald Henderson, who is the curator at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta, told Live Science, “We’ve got everything from the head almost to the tip of the tail, adding, “We don’t have much in the way of flippers. They were lost to decay, or maybe they were bitten off.”
The skeleton of the sea creature was approximately 20 to 23 feet in length. Since the contents in its stomach were still well-preserved, it was possible to identify what exactly it feasted on – turtles, fish, ammonites, and other mosasaurs. The Tylosaurus had backwards curving teeth which helped them eat their prey. “Once they grabbed you with their main teeth and started to work you back, those teeth would keep the food from struggling out,” Henderson explained.
It’s unclear whether the Tylosaurus will be displayed for public to view. An illustration of the Tylosaurus as well as a picture of the site where it was discovered can be seen here.