Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Earth scraper on Fort McMurray road construction site exposes marine reptile fossil

Information in this post were retrieved from the Alberta Government Information Bulletin on January 8, 2013. For more information, please visit their site by clicking HERE.

Royal Tyrrell Museum staff recently collected the remains of a large marine reptile estimated to be 110 to 114 million years old. The specimen was discovered during a road construction project near Fort McMurray.

When an earth scraper exposed fossil bones, they were examined by an expert from Aeon Paleontological Consulting Ltd., who was on site in accordance with Alberta’s Historical Resources Act. Flatiron Construction, the project contractor for Alberta Transportation, constructed a wooden frame and tarp structure around the fossil so the ground could be thawed for excavation.

Dr. Donald Henderson led a Royal Tyrrell Museum crew to Fort McMurray on December 10 to examine and collect the specimen. It was found to be a nearly complete long-necked plesiosaur. Plesiosaurs lived in the sea that covered most of Alberta during the Cretaceous Period.

While conditions inside the structure were comfortable during the seven-day process, temperatures of -35 C with wind chill made loading the fossil onto a truck a challenge. The fossil was transported to the Royal Tyrrell Museum for preparation and study.

Although the skull and one flipper are missing, the rest of the skeleton is complete, including the tail. The body measures approximately one metre wide with flippers extending about one metre to each side. It is the fourth plesiosaur found in the Fort McMurray area over the last three years.

Owned and operated by Alberta Culture, the Royal Tyrrell Museum is located six kilometres northwest of Drumheller on Highway 838. Open year round. For more information visit or call 403-823-7707 (dial 310-0000 for toll-free access within Alberta).

Visit for more information on all of Alberta’s historic sites and museums.

Editor’s Note: Photos of the find are available at Media inquiries may be directed to:

Leanna Mohan
Marketing Coordinator
Royal Tyrrell Museum
403- 823-7707
To call toll-free within Alberta dial 310-0000.

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