The skeleton of an elasmosaur dinosaur, a rare 25-foot-long marine reptile, has been found for the first time in the mountains of Alaska.
In an expedition to the Talkeetna Mountains, a team led by the University of Alaska’s Museum of the North discovered and began excavating the bones of the creature that is a type of plesiosaur, a university press release said.
The creature, which had a long neck and two "pairs of paddle-like limbs" lived about 70 million years ago during the Cretaceous period, the release said.
"Picture the mythical Loch Ness monster and you have a pretty good idea what it looked like. This is an exciting find because it is the first time an elasmosaur has ever been discovered in Alaska," earth sciences curator Patrick Druckenmiller said.
The first sign that a dinosaur skeleton may be hiding in the side of a 60-foot tall cliff was found by fossil collector Curvin Metzler, of Anchorage. He found a vertebrate fossil in the area, and he led Druckenmiller and others to the site in June where they found the bulk of the skeleton in a hillside.
"I’m mostly interested in finding invertebrates, so when I saw the first vertebra I knew it was a bone from something," Metzler said in the release. "I didn’t want to disturb anything in the cliff so it was exciting to talk to Pat."
Druckenmiller has worked on other expeditions to collect elasmosaur skeletons, including a nearly complete one found in Montana in 2010.
"I was really excited the first time Curvin showed me one of its bones, " he said. "I recognized it as a vertebra from the base of the animal’s neck and wanted to visit the site to see if we could find more. Based on the size of the bones we excavated, the animal should be at least 25-feet-long. "
The elasmosaur’s long neck would have given the creature an unusual look. Druckenmiller told KTNA, "Imagine an animal
, maybe thirty feet long, with half of that length being its neck, and this long neck sticking out supporting a relatively small head at the end."
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