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Rare Marine Reptile Fossil Found in Alaska

fossil
(Photo: Patrick Druckenmiller)

A rare marine reptile fossil was found in Anchorage, Alaska by the University Alaska Museum of the North and was successfully excavated by the team. The rare finding was only visible due to the low tide.

A member of the geological team, Eugene Primaky, was the first to spot the creature in May. “I instantly thought ‘fish’ and brushed it with my boot to make sure it wasn’t a branch.” The “fish” turned out to be a prehistoric marine reptile called a thalattosaur.

The reptile was very rare and grew to be between three to ten feet long. It had a flattened tale while other features resemble a modern day lizard.

The body of the discovered sea reptile was estimated to be about 220 million years old and could only be removed from the ground through extremely intense procedures.

The process included waiting for a two-day window where the team only had four hours each day to retrieve the fossil. If they did not succeed they would have had to wait until October in to finish the task.

The team used a rock saw to chip away the layers of the rock around the fossil and the procedure was completed one day and 15 minutes before their cutoff.

The submerged fossil was encased in 500 pounds of rock which the team transported to Thorne Bay so that it could slowly be chipped away until the bones were the only thing left.

The team hacked away to uncover two slabs of rock that they hoped would enclose the whole reptile but they only extracted the tail and hind bones. The team is hoping to find the rest of it, especially the skull, fully intact and as well preserved on their next excavation of the site.

The specimen was preserved so well that its findings will be published and it will lay to rest in the museum’s exhibit.

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