Workers at the Enchanted Designs Ammonite Mine in Lethbridge, Alberta, were searching for ammonite fossils when they instead discovered the skeleton of a Plesiosaur.
Ammonite is an extinct group of mollusks that survived on Earth for about 330 million years before becoming extinct around 65 million years ago along with the dinosaurs. Their shells contain beautiful colors from the mineralogical and geological processes of being buried for millions of years. This is what the ammolite gemstone is made of.
The Plesiosaur fossil, which is believed to date back approximately 75 million years, probably belonged to an adolescent. It was around seven meters in length (23 feet) with half of it being just its neck. The size isn’t unusual as numerous museums have specimens belonging to Plesiosaurs that measure anywhere between 2.5 and 14 meters in length (between 8 and 46 feet).
What is strange, though, is the fact that they found the remains in the Bearpaw Formation (this includes portions of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Montana). “You actually almost never see anything like it,” explained Femke Holwerda from the Royal Tyrrell Museum’s postdoctoral research fellow, adding, “Very weird. I think the Loch Ness Monster from Scotland is based on them.” The creature had a small head, long neck, large body, short tail, and four paddle-like flippers.
Another interesting discovery was made at Bearpaw Formation about two years ago when miners unearthed a well-preserved fossil of a mosasaur (specifically a Tylosaurus) that lived approximately 70 million years ago. Nicknamed the “T-Rex of the sea”, it could grow as large as 50 feet in length with its gigantic head making up one-sixth of its weight, although this specific fossil was only about 20 to 23 feet long.
Around 75 million years ago, the location was a shallow sea bed. “So you got this pretty rich ecosystem of Mosasaurs, Plesiosaurs, fish and then we find some shellfish as well,” Holwerda noted, adding, “It was probably quite nice to be a reptile in these parts.”
In addition to the recently discovered Plesiosaur fossil, workers also found other bones belonging to rare fish and even some that haven’t been identified yet. “It’s quite interesting and exciting to be able to find this stuff as we’re mining for ammonite,” said mine manager Michael Shideler.
All of the newly discovered fossils have been brought to the Royal Tyrrell Museum where they will be analyzed. A picture of the Plesiosaur fossil can be seen here.