A team of miners looking for gemstones in Alberta, Canada, got way more than they bargained for when they came across the full skeleton of an ancient predatory marine reptile. While these incredible fossilized remains would make for one hell of a necklace, the company that found the specimen has instead handed it over to the nearby Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.
Earlier this year, miners working on behalf of Enchanted Designs Limited had been digging in the Bearpaw Formation, which was submerged beneath the Western Interior Seaway during the Late Cretaceous period, about 70 million years ago. They were searching for ammolite, a colorful gemstone made up of the fossilized remains of an ancient mollusk called ammonite, which lived in the now dried-up waters that once dominated the landscape.
Given the array of marine life that once inhabited this part of Canada, miners are never too surprised to come across the odd fossilized marine reptile, although it’s not every day that they unearth a complete mosasaur.
In its day, this specimen – which measured 6 to 7 meters (20 to 23 feet) in length – would have occupied the highest rank in the local food chain, and while it is long extinct, some of its closest relatives still roam Earth in the form of snakes and monitor lizards.
Donald Henderson from the Royal Tyrell Museum of Palaeontology told Live Science that “we’ve got everything from the head almost to the tip of the tail,” although he says that the flippers are more or less completely absent, having either rotted away or been “bitten off”.
It’s thought that there were once 38 different species of mosasaur, all of which perished during the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. This particular individual probably belonged to the genus Tylosaurus, and while it won’t be available in any jewelry stores, it may soon be on display at the museum.
[H/T: Live Science]