An intact elasmosaur fossil was found embedded up the side of a cliff in Alaska, per Live Science. The aquatic reptile sported an extremely long neck and lived 70 million years ago. The elasmosaur could possibly account for the sightings of the Loch Ness Monster according to some theorists.
The fossil discovery is the first intact elasmosaur fossil found in the state of Alaska.
Anchorage-based artist James Havens created the sketch he imagined below of the long-necked elasmosaur. Havens has been working with earth sciences curator Patrick Druckenmiller of the University of Alaska Museum of the North, helping the curator to realistically interpret found ancient life forms.
— Trendolizer (@Trendolizer) August 6, 2015
The Talkeetna Mountains of southern Alaska yielded the find.
“This is a very unusual group of marine reptiles that belongs to a larger group known as plesiosaurs,” stated Druckenmiller to Live Science as reported on Tuesday. “Elasmosaurs are famous because they have these ridiculously long necks and relatively small skulls.”
— Alaska Pacific Univ. (@AlaskaPacificU) July 31, 2015
The discovery of an elasmosaur fossil is unique in the Talkeetna Mountains. Though many sea invertebrates (mostly ammonites) have been found here, the discovery of vertebrate fossil, or back-boned animal, is unique to the region.
Druckenmiller said the animal would have been approximately 25-feet long and its neck would account for half of the length of its body. Since the found Alaska elasmosaur fossil is still heavily embedded in the cliff face, its true length has yet to be measured.
A 12.5-foot neck? A neck that long was hard for paleontologist to swallow at first, and it was hard for scientists to make heads or tails of assembling found bones for a good while. See the commentary below.
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The elasmosaur has been tied to the Loch Ness Monster legend as previously reported by the Inquisitr. This theory dates back to the 1930s.
“Although I’m a little loathe to use the comparison, if you think of the Loch Ness Monster–which is definitely a mythical animal–that mythical animal was basically based on the body plan of an elasmosaur,” scoffed Druckenmiller.
The Alaskan curator was quick to call the Nessy-elasmosaur connection a “bunch of bunk” because he believes that it is unlikely a plesiosaur could have posed for a Nessie photo (real or hoaxed) with its long neck extended so far out of the water.
— BurpeeMuseum (@BurpeeMuseum) January 13, 2015
“These fossils are found in classic ‘Badlands’ environments in other parts of the world, with nice outcroppings of rock sticking out everywhere,” Druckenmiller added. “In Alaska, there’s a lot of vegetation, so it’s hard to find good, accessible rock. Where we usually find it is pretty remote, mountainous areas where there’s not a lot of vegetation because of the high elevation and the steep slopes.”
— FSologists Alaska (@FSologists_AK) July 23, 2015
The carnivorous elasmosaur swam the oceans of the Late Cretaceous Period, per Alaska Public Media. How did this long-necked sea creature end up fossilized halfway up an Alaskan mountain, where peaks are known to reach altitudes of 9,000 feet?
“The rocks that the skeleton was found in were laid down on the seabed about 70 to 75 million years ago. At that time there was a sea along the southern margin of [what is now] Alaska,” said Druckenmiller.
The curator added that plate tectonics over millions of years would have allowed for the seabed to shift upward, rise thousands of feet, and form the mountain chain.
Although Druckenmiller has been the focus of the media swarm over the Alaskan elasmosaur, he offered that a “great deal of credit should go to Curvin Metzler,” the Anchorage resident who was first to come across the bones of the long-neck plesiosaur jutting out of a cliff in the Talkeetna Mountains and alert the Museum of the North.
[Image by David McNew/Getty Images]