Seven years ago, a Montana hunter, found a 75- million- year- old fossil that has led to an amazing discovery. The fossil, which discovered in the Charles M Russell National Wildlife Refuge, has led to the discovery of a brand- new species of a prehistoric sea creature. It is believed that the creature lived an estimated 75-million-years-ago in the inland sea that once flowed just east of the Rocky Mountains, reports Science Daily.
An article was published on Thursday in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology on the fossil discovery of an elasmosaurs. The article shares that most elasmosaurs has long necks that could stretch up to 18 feet, but the fossil discovered in Montana stands out because its neck only stretched 7 ½ feet.
Patrick Druckenmiller, the co-author of the newly published article states that elasmosaurs were famous for having crazy long necks. The elasmosaurs had necks that had up to 76 vertebrae. The Montana fossil only had 40 vertebrae.
Researchers believe that the smaller version of the elasmosaur lived at the same time as the larger one. Danielle Serratos, the co-author of the new article says that the Montana discovery contradicts the belief that this dinosaur did not evolve over millions of years to have much longer necks.
Serratos states that elasmosaurs were carnivorous creatures. They had small heads and limbs that are described as paddle-like. The limbs could grow up to 30 feet long. The elasmosaurs fossils have been found across the globe.
The fossil discovered in Montana was all most perfectly preserved and very close to complete. The refuge where it was discovered is a remote setting adjacent to the Missouri River. It is a popular area for big game hunters, reports Reuters.
The fossil was discovered by David Bradt, a ranch manager from Florence, Montana. Bradt says that he was in the area elk hunting back in November of 2010. He says that he entered a canyon so he could splash some water on his face.
As he cooled down he noticed that the creek’s water was running over what he at first thought was petrified wood. He pulled back some brush and saw a vertebra. He knew that there was no doubt that what he was looking at was a fossil.
Bradt says that he believed it was a dinosaur and adds he was shocked when he later learned it was not a dinosaur, but instead a sea creature.
Bradt said the fossil was about the size of a cow and he thought that perhaps it was a triceratops. He added that he was unaware that there was ever an ocean there, reports the Billings Gazette.
Bradt took photographs of is find and immediately reported the fossil to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the Museum of the Rockies located in Bozeman.
It took researchers three days to excavate the fossil and weeks to clean and study it to determine it was a new species.
Serratos explains that the inland sea once stretched the width of Montana to Minnesota and from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. He states that it was once filled with marine reptiles, but that very few of their fossils have been discovered.
By Tammy Marie Rose
Photo Courtesy MSU