Oct
06
2006

Norway fossil cache includes monster pliosaur

Pliosaur: Credit: Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, Norway  Artwork by Tor Sponga, BT
Pliosaur: Credit: Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, Norway Artwork by Tor Sponga, BT

Marine reptile burial ground found

Norwegian scientists have discovered a "treasure trove" of fossils belonging to giant sea reptiles that roamed the seas at the time of the dinosaurs. The 150 million year-old Jurassic fossils were discovered while conducting fieldwork in a remote locality on the island of Spitsbergen, approximately 800 miles from the North Pole.

The Svalbard locality represents one of the most important new sites for marine reptiles to have been discovered in the last several decades. In terms of number, a remarkable 28 new individuals were documented during the short two-week field period, nine of which are believed to be significant discoveries. This tally, which includes 21 long-necked plesiosaurs, six ichthyosaurs and one short necked plesiosaur, ranks Svalbard as one of the most productive sites for marine reptiles in the world. The fossilized remains are also very well preserved, and most of the skeletons are articulated, with the bones still lying in their original life position. University of Oslo, Natural History Museum

A skeleton of a pliosaur promises to be one of the largest ever discovered. Over 30 feet long with a six foot skull, the find is referred to as "the monster". A large number of photos documenting these finds are on the Naturhistorisk museum website. A plesiosaur is pictured being eaten by the pliosaur. Ichthyosaurs were another food source represented in the fossil treasue trove.

Unconserved, these specimens would crumble due to repeated freezing and thawing during the cold winters and fairly temperate summers in Svalbard. The destruction of these fossils is being prevented by wrapping them in a “field jackets” and bringing them back to the museum.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

kvang's picture
kvang says:

WOW!
I didn't know that such a large animal could had been alive 150 million years ago. But on the other hand it was in the time of the dinosures, so anything could be possilbe. But I'm still amazed at the size of the skeleton of the pliosaur, who was over 30 feet long and a six foot skull. Thats just crazy, but it is a dinosure. It was really interesting reading about a new skeleton of a dinosure that was recently discovered. Thanks for the great story on Pliosaur. ^_^

posted on Tue, 10/10/2006 - 5:33pm
Danielle Geladino's picture
Danielle Geladino says:

How do you guys know that this creaure was around when the dinosaurs roamed the earth

posted on Tue, 05/15/2007 - 3:34pm
Thor's picture
Thor says:

That's a great question since no one was around at the time to write down a record of the dinosaurs that were on the Earth at that time. But here's what paleontologists do. They can determine the ages of the rocks where the fossils are found. And since the fossil is found in that mass of rock, scientists figure that the dinosaur must have been around at the same time that the rock started forming. So the ages of the rock the fossil is found in tell us the age on dinosaur. It would be pretty hard to be any newer than the rock, since it's hard to put something into rock without breaking it. -- Thor

posted on Tue, 05/15/2007 - 3:51pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

The one word answer is stratigraphy.

No one species has existed since the beginning of life on Earth. So different fossils are present in rock layers of different ages.

Rock layers in their original, horizontal position (meaning that processes such as mountain building haven't flipped them over) can be put in sequence. The youngest rocks and fossils are those on top. The deeper you go, the older the rocks and fossils.

It sounds elementary, but it was a crucial concept to the earliest paleontologists working to determine the relative succession of different life forms on Earth. Without actually having the dates for specific fossils, they divided up geologic time into categories (Eons, Eras, Periods, Epochs, etc), using characteristic rock layers to mark the boundaries. With a timetable of events (volcanic eruptions, etc) and animals worked out, scientists around the world started to correlate rock layers. And today, scientists have a pretty good sense of how old a fossil is just on the basis of where, and in what rock layer, it was found.

That's "relative dating." (No, it's not kissing your sister; it's assigning an approximate age to something based on its relationship to something else.)

We can also use absolute dating techniques, such as radiometric dating.

Radioactive elements are atoms that change over time. Sometimes they become different forms, or isotopes, of the same element, and sometimes they become entirely different elements. A radioactive element's half-life is the time necessary for half the atoms in the original element to make such a change. (The original element is called the parent, and the breakdown product is called the daughter.) By comparing the ratio of parent to daughter isotopes, scientists can date certain rock layers.

But that's the catch: radiometric dating only works for certain kinds of rocks, especially volcanic ones. Fossils aren't found in volcanic rocks (think about it--the heat of the molten rock would destroy all evidence of living things), and the radioactive elements aren't present in fossils.

Fortunately, some sedimentary rock layers also contain volcanic ash layers (called bentonites) which can be very widespread and are dateable. If a fossil is found in a rock layer with ash layers above and below it, we can assign a minimum and maximum age.

posted on Tue, 05/15/2007 - 4:06pm
Pooh's picture
Pooh says:

Interested. For I dont even know anything about the dinosure . and now i just realize that it so interest and really important to know the history of the world before the birth of the human.. to day i watch the godzila movie, i think it kind dinosure too because it really big. it amazing ..

posted on Sat, 03/14/2009 - 11:04am
Headphone Guy's picture
Headphone Guy says:

it is really amazing to know their are species like that existed especially in the oceans. good stuff : )

posted on Sat, 04/03/2010 - 3:25pm

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