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The Manitoba Museum is busily preparing for the arrival of a new member to our Earth History Gallery on August 11, 2016. The new addition is one of the largest marine reptiles of the dinosaur era, a pliosaur, which will actually be represented by two skeletons: a panel mount of the actual fossil, and a full skeletal reconstruction! Pliosaurs are a type of plesiosaur, a group of extinct reptiles that were at the top of the food chain in the Cretaceous seas. Pliosaurs had a tear-drop shaped body and two sets of powerful paddles used to “fly” through the water, allowing them to break the surface like whales do. Their short neck supported a massive skull full of thick sturdy teeth. Pliosaurs preyed on squid-like animals, fish, turtles, and even other plesiosaurs.
Our new pliosaur was found in Western Manitoba. It was discovered by Wayne Buckley in 2002 and the different parts were collected between 2002 and 2005, as he excavated farther. Buckley donated the fossils to the Museum in 2014. “I have a passion for fossils. I think collecting them is important because we don’t have a complete record of the early life that was in Manitoba during the Cretaceous Period,” said Buckley. “I feel that we are able to make significant scientific contributions. It’s also important to save the fossils; erosion is very rapid where we are collecting and fossils simply erode away,”
Fossils from the Cretaceous Period are abundant, but good quality pliosaurs fossils are very rare. “This is the only relatively complete pliosaur ever collected in Canada, and one of the best in the world. It is scientifically significant because pliosaur skulls have rarely been found with the postcranial (body) fossils, as they generally became separated during decomposition,” said Dr. Graham Young, Curator of Geology and Paleontology who is working on the installation of the replica and fossils. Graham expects that, “Since we have both the skull and flippers, this fossil can tell scientists a lot that was previously unknown about pliosaurs. It is being actively studied by scientists from Japan [name the organization here] and Ottawa (Canadian Museum of Nature), who plan to write a scientific paper about this discovery. Since it is still being studied, it does not yet have a scientific name – it might even be a new species.”
In life, the Manitoba Museum’s pliosaur was about 18 feet long (5.5 metres). It was still a juvenile and might have grown to 40 feet (12 metres) or more. Our replica will be life-sized and suspended from the ceiling in the Earth History Gallery positioned as it would have been in the oceans of old. Below it, the original fossil will be dramatically panel-mounted in a glass-topped case, laid out almost as it was found in the bedrock.
Help us name our pliosaur and you’ll be entered to WIN a Fossil Dig Adventure for 4 at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre.
Vote for your favourite pliosaur name:
Note: Fossil dig participants must be 10 years of age or older to participate.
On May 6, the Manitoba Museum opened the Dino Dig Discovery Room generating excitement for the arrival of a new member to our Earth History Gallery. Before the pliosaur fossils and full-scale replica go on permanent display, visitors can see videos showing how its skeleton was recreated from 90-million-year-old fossils. They will learn also how Triceratops ate, how we know what dinosaur skin looked like, how big Deinonychus’ killer claw was, and more while investigating dinosaur teeth, examining fossils, and searching for clues in the dinosaur dig.