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Friday, July 29, 2011

Rare fossil of prehistoric marine reptile found during low tide on Alaska beach - 29th July 2011

The fossil of a rare, prehistoric marine reptile that is likely the most complete remnant of the creature ever found in North America has been discovered by scientists in Alaska.

The nearly-complete fossilised skeleton is of a thalattosaur, a long-tailed sea creature that plied warm, shallow waters in the early days of dinosaurs and became extinct at the end of the Triassic period some 200million years ago.

The discovery of the fossil, found during an extreme low tide along the shore of the Tongass National Forest, was announced this week by the Museum Of The North at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Dr Jim Baichtal, the U.S. Forest Service's Tongass geologist and part of the discovery team, said: 'We were just having our morning coffee out on the outcropping when somebody said, "What's that?"'

Geologists had been conducting field surveys at the site when the fossil was spotted.

Unlike most thalattosaur discoveries, which are fossilised remnants of individual bones and bone fragments, this specimen appeared to be a nearly full skeleton.

Dr Baichtal said: 'In North America, this may be the most articulated specimen that we have right now.'

Scientists excavated the fossil in June and have been studying it to determine whether it represents a previously unknown species.

There are only about a dozen full thalattosaur specimens in the world, Dr Baichtal said. 'So the probability of this being something that wasn't seen before is probably pretty high.' Read More