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Ancient reptile rises from Alberta oil sands
Date:3/20/2008

>The fossil was discovered by machine operators Greg Fisher and Lorne Cundal in 1994 during routine mining operations at Syncrudes Base Mine, about 35 kilometres north of Fort McMurray near the Athabasca River. Amazingly, the specimen was serendipitously exposed by one of Syncrudes 100-ton electric shovels approximately 60 metres below ground surface. It is complete except for its left forelimb and shoulder blade. It was transported to the Royal Tyrrell Museum, where it was prepared for research observations and exhibit and studied by Druckenmiller and Russell.

We owe a lot to the excellent work Syncrude does of salvaging the fossils they find, says Don Brinkman, assistant director of research and collections at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Because of this kind of partnership we are able to learn a lot more about marine reptiles from the Cretaceous Period.

This is exciting because it is truly palaeontology on an industrial scale, Russell said. Syncrude deserves a lot of credit for recognizing the importance of this specimen and assisting in preserving it. They worked around excavating in the area for 24 hours to ensure it was properly handled and continue to be involved in helping researchers further understand the geology and paleontology of the region.

Nichollsia borealis is one of the most complete and best preserved North American plesiosaurs from the Cretaceous Period and lived approximately 112-million years ago. Although not classified as dinosaurs, plesiosaurs lived in the seas at the same time that dinosaurs roamed the land throughout the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods (205 million 65 million years ago). They were a diverse group of carnivorous aquatic reptiles that reached lengths of over 12 metres. Fossil remains of dozens of plesiosaurs have been recovered around the world since the early 1800s and are among the first fossil vertebrates to be scientifically described. Nichollsia is also very significant because it fills a 40-mil
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Contact: Grady Semmens
gsemmens@ucalgary.ca
403-220-7722
University of Calgary
Source:Eurekalert

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