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Random Find Leads To Discovery Of Prehistoric Sea Creature

First Posted: Apr 14, 2017 05:20 AM EDT

Seven years ago, in November 2010, an elk hunter in Montana found a fossil that led to the discovery of a new species of prehistoric sea creatures. The said species, called the elasmosaur, was said to have lived about 70 million years ago in the inland sea, east of the Rocky Mountains.

David Bradt, a ranch manager from Montana, shared that he was hunting elk at the time when he came across the fossil as he splashed some water on his face from the canyon. He said that the water ran over to what he thought was a petrified wood sticking out of a rock. However, he was surprised to see vertebrae instead. Initially, he thought it to be a dinosaur, which was why it was all the more shocking when he learned it was actually a sea creature.

In an article published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, it is noted that this type of marine reptile had necks that could stretch up to 18 feet (5.5 meters). The fossil found in the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, however, has a distinctly shorter neck at only 7 and a half feet (2.3 meters) long.

Patrick Druckenmiller, a co-author of the article, also shared that this is highly unusual. It is because this group of species was known for its ridiculously long neck. According to him, elasmosaurs "have as many as 76 vertebrae." The new discovery, on the other hand, had only somewhere around 40.

The Gazette reported that elasmosaurs were prehistoric, carnivorous animals with small heads and paddle-like limbs. They were also pretty large as a species, as their limbs could grow as long as 30 feet (9.1 meters). While their fossils have been discovered all around the world, it still came as a surprise that the one discovered in Montana is very well-preserved and is almost complete.

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