Saturday, 26 November 2011

A Fantastic New Plesiosaur Fossil from The Alberta Oil Sands

The  plesiosaur fossil from the Alberta Oil Sands
The oil industry is one of the biggest and most expensive on Earth. Millions of gallons of fuel are extracted from natural wells, across the world, every year. Most reserves are marine but some are accessible on the land. One such site are the Alberta Oil Sands in Canada. The Cretaceous deposits contain nearly 85% of the world's bitumen resources. However incredibly well preserved fossils of marine organisms are sometimes recovered as well.

Earlier this year, the 110 million year old skeleton of an ankylosaurid was found under one kilometre of sediment. Now the remains of a plesiosaur have been been discovered, making it the tenth fossil from the Alberta Oil Sands. It was uncovered by Maggy Horvath, an operator mining metal ore, in the third week of November 2011. It is fortunate that the site's owner, Syncrude, has a policy that when specimens are discovered all operations cease and the corporation's geologist is contacted.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, Alberta, Canada was called in to remove the fossil from the oil sand. Simultaneously, they were able to give it a stratigraphic date of 115 million years. This process is still on-going due to its size. The plesiosaur in question was a giant, 20 metres long. The fossil is a rare find. Apart from being almost complete, it is the first long-necked marine reptile to be discovered in 10 years. Once it has been fully extracted, proper analysis should reveal its true scientific value.

'I think it’s great that I'm part of this. It felt pretty good to call my son and let him know that I found a prehistoric fossil while working in the mine,' says Horvath. 'As operators we always keep our eyes out for a find.' 'This is a very exciting discovery for us at Syncrude and for all Albertans,' added Syncrude President and CEO Scott Sullivan. 'It is also an example of how our employees take pride and responsibility in their work. It truly demonstrates Maggy’s skill as an operator.'