Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rare fossil of late Cretaceous plesiosaur discovered

Date:
July 16, 2013
Source:
University of Alabama
Summary:
Researchers have discovered the fossilized remains of an elasmosaur. A subgroup of the late Cretaceous plesiosaurs, the elasmosaurid plesiosaurs are recognized by their large body size and shape. This find is only the second elasmosaurid specimen containing more than one or two bones found in Alabama.

An artist rendering of an elasmosaur, created by University of Alabama undergraduate student Asher Albein.
Credit: University of Alabama

University of Alabama researchers have discovered the fossilized remains of a large marine reptile that once ruled the open seas 80 million years ago.

Related Articles


The initial discovery, made June 20 by middle-school student Noah Traylor during a UA-hosted expedition, was later identified as part of a large neck vertebra of an elasmosaur, which is a subgroup of the late Cretaceous plesiosaurs.

Elasmosaurid plesiosaurs are easily recognized by their large body size -- some species reach up to 45 feet in length.

"Think Loch Ness monster," said Dr. Dana Ehret, UA Museum paleontologist. "They have very large flippers for swimming and extremely long necks, consisting of up to about 70 neck vertebrae."

Plesiosaurs became extinct by the end of Cretaceous, or about 65.5 million years ago, and they are generally rare in the fossil record for Alabama. This is only the second elasmosaurid specimen containing more than one or two bones found in the state, Ehret said. The first, which consists of 22 vertebrae, was found in the late 1960s and is now part of UA Collections.

This discovery appears to be on par with the first one. To date, about 15 large vertebrae, a few paddle bones and many bone fragments have been collected, but an extensive excavation is still in progress, so Ehret is uncertain how complete this skeleton is.

"We find a lot of the more common fossils here, but this is a macropredator that is not normally found in Alabama," Ehret said. "It's really interesting because it gives us a bigger picture of what was happening in Alabama at that time."

The skeleton was also not found near water. Ehret said during the late Cretaceous period, temperatures were much warmer than they are today, resulting in higher sea levels. The specimen was found in a small quarry in rural Greene County, a region commonly called the "Black Belt."

The "Black Belt" represents the late Cretaceous shoreline in the Gulf Coast. The sediments found in this region are classified as chalk, are composed of extinct microscopic organisms and are extremely nutrient rich, making them the perfect place for farming.

The discovery was made during the Museum's Expedition 35, which was hosted by UA's Alabama Museum of Natural History and led by Randy Mecredy, director of the Museum. The expedition is an annual summer program that is open to middle and high-school students.

In addition to Ehret, others involved in the excavation include students from the expedition, Dr. Takehito "Ike" Ikejiri with UA's department of geological sciences, museum staff, Dr. Prescott Atkinson of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the UA Museum's Board of Regents and a few UA geology students.

The bones were initially excavated in place from the chalk in the quarry. Once they were able to determine the size and extent of the individual bones, those working the excavation could take them out of the ground and transport them back to the museum. Some pieces came back loose, while others were wrapped to prevent them from falling apart.

In the paleontology lab, the bones are now being unwrapped and prepared. Specimens are washed and scrubbed to remove loose sediments, and, for those that are still embedded in the chalk sediment, Ehret said they will use different tools to remove the sediment.

It will take several weeks to prepare the bones properly and then harden them to ensure they will not later fall apart. Once finished, the specimen will be displayed in UA's Smith Hall.

"From a research standpoint, this is an important find. To have this many pieces, you can do an extensive comparative analysis," Mecredy said. "But, it's also having the ability to take high-school and middle-school students in the field where they find these things. It inspires them to pursue science-related fields."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Alabama. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Alabama. "Rare fossil of late Cretaceous plesiosaur discovered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130716161916.htm>.
University of Alabama. (2013, July 16). Rare fossil of late Cretaceous plesiosaur discovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130716161916.htm
University of Alabama. "Rare fossil of late Cretaceous plesiosaur discovered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130716161916.htm (accessed November 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

US Returns Looted Artifacts to Thailand

US Returns Looted Artifacts to Thailand

AFP (Nov. 19, 2014) — The United States has returns over 500 vases, bowls, axes, and other ancient artifacts mostly from the Ban Chiang archaeological site which were illegally looted from Thailand decades ago. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Search Through Every Public Tweet Sent Since 2006

How To Search Through Every Public Tweet Sent Since 2006

Newsy (Nov. 19, 2014) — Twitter has announced improvements to its search index that allow users to search through every public tweet sent since its inception in 2006. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Unlocks the Mystery of Paintings

Professor Unlocks the Mystery of Paintings

AP (Nov. 19, 2014) — Richard Johnson, a computer and engineering professor at Cornell University, is using technology to uncover mysteries about the age and authenticity of historic paintings by artists like Johannes Vermeer and Vincent Van Gogh. (Nov. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Napoleon Memorabilia to Be Sold at Auction

Napoleon Memorabilia to Be Sold at Auction

AFP (Nov. 14, 2014) — Napoleon's personal possessions, including his iconic cocked hat, are being auctioned off this weekend at a special sale at Fontainebleau Castle. Buyers are expected to bid hundreds of thousands or even millions of euros. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins