The remains of an unusual turtle were found embedded in the banks of the Puntledge River on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. The discovery was made in January of this year by a fossil hunter named Russell Ball.
The fossil, which is around 84 million years old, is believed to be an entirely new species of prehistoric sea turtle. In fact, it might be one of only two known ancient sea turtle species that have ever been found around that region.
Derek Larson, who is the palaeontology collections manager at the Royal BC Museum (RBCM) noted, “Either way, this discovery is a win for palaeontology in B.C.” “If the fossil is a known species, we’ll learn a lot of new information about that species because these specimens are rare and, so far, incomplete.” “If the fossil turns out to be a species that is new to science, that could exponentially advance our understanding of marine ecosystems millions of years ago.”
The fossil is currently at the RBCM where palaeontologists are studying it and working on making a proper identification. Pictures and a video of the discovery can be seen here.
In other ancient fossil news, a trove of ancient bones has been found in California. The bones, which were discovered in the Mokelumne River watershed in Calaveras County, date back to between 5 and 10 million years ago. While not all of the fossils have been identified yet, the researchers have so far confirmed that some of the bones belonged to a two-tusked mastodon, four-tusked gomphothere, horse, camel, rhinoceros, tortoise, bird, tapir, and fish.
Greg Francek, who is the ranger at the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), made the discovery in July of 2020 while he was out patrolling the 28,000-acre area and experts have since been busy studying the bones.
“Some of the first discoveries were large proboscideans, which are essentially ancestral elephants such as the gomphothere, parts of mastodons, we found tortoise remains, horses,” Francek explained, adding, “The diverse collection of fossil flora and fauna reveals so much about the dynamic natural history of the land we work with every day. This discovery and the resulting scientific study add to the understanding of North American biotic evolution and climate change that has occurred over millions of years.”
Based on the number of fossils recovered at that one area, there are indications that the region was at one time “made up of multiple river channels with an abundant and diverse grassland and forested ecosystem,” the EBMUD stated, adding that there are also indications that the Sierra Nevada “began to rise tens of millions of years ago, and these fossils represent a significant bookmark in that story millions of years in the making.”
Experts have described this discovery as being significant as not a lot fossil deposits have been found in the state of California. A video of the discovery can be viewed here.