By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) – Canadian miners made a startling discovery while digging for ammolite – a gemstone – but instead unearthed a 70-million-year-old sea monster.
The fossil, which ruled the seas when most of the earth was ocean, was found near Lethbridge, a city of about 100,000 in the western Canadian province of Alberta.
“It’s still pretty much encased in rock but based on what we’ve seen from other similar types of animals this is a large marine reptile,” said Dan Spivak of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, this week. The museum, run by the government of Alberta, showcases fossils that have been uncovered in the province, which was a prime stomping ground for dinosaurs millions of years ago.
Called the mosasaur, it was not a dinosaur but a sea monster or serpent, about seven metres long according to the museum people.
“The skull itself is about a metre long with sharp pointy teeth and a real mean look on its face,” Spivak said. He added that it has no living relative on earth.
However, the mosasaur did appear in the movie Jurassic World in 2015.
“That was a really really big one,” Spivak said. “Those movies tend to put their animals on steroids. So, yes, it was a mosasaur, but it was significantly bigger than a mosasaur would have been in real life.”
While they were not dinosaurs, mosasaurs were at the top of the food chain and lived in a sea that existed long ago in the province.
“These things would be swimming around in what would have been a shallow sea that covered a large part of Alberta 70-72 million years ago, feeding on turtles and ammonite and fish – and pretty much anything else that they could have got their teeth into,” Spivak said.
The gemstone ammolite is the fossilized shell of an ammonite.