October 6, 2006 | David F. Coppedge

Sea Monster Fossils Found in Arctic

The BBC News reported the discovery of over two dozen plesiosaurs, pliosaurs and ichthyosaurs (see 04/20/2005) north of Norway.  Skeletons of the large marine reptiles, completely assembled, were found buried in fine-grained sedimentary layers of black shale.  “Everything we’re finding is articulated,” said Jorn Harald Hurum, co-director of the dig.  “It’s not single bones here and there, and bits and pieces – these are complete skeletons.”  The preservation was remarkable also in how fresh they looked, “like roadkill,” a bleached white against the black of the shale.  “Something happened with the chemistry that’s really good for bone preservation,” Dr. Hurum said.
    Plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs lived in the age of dinosaurs and went extinct at the same time.  Hurum “was taken aback by the sheer density of fossil remains in one area,” the article said.  Hurum told the BBC, “You can’t walk for more than 100m without finding a skeleton.  That’s amazing anywhere in the world.”  Another said, “These sites are very unusual.  To find that many individuals is a remarkable thing – that’s a bonanza.”  One of the specimens they nicknamed the Monster may be 26 feet in length.

The article speculates that these large creatures calmly died and sank to the bottom of the sea, where they were slowly buried.  Would not bacteria and predators have devoured any trace of them?  And even if the bones remained, would they not have disarticulated and spread apart?  They must have been buried suddenly at the same time.  Like so many other fossil graveyards, this area tells a silent tale of catastrophe.

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Categories: Dinosaurs, Fossils

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