Today, the Bearpaw Formation, also called the Bearpaw Shale, is a geologic formation of Late Cretaceous (Campanian) age. It outcrops in the U.S. state of Montana, as well as the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and was named for the Bear Paw Mountains in Montana. It includes a wide range of marine fossils, as well as the remains of a few dinosaurs. It is known for its fossil ammonites, some of which are mined in Alberta to produce the organic gemstone ammolite.
It was home to many marine reptiles, ammonites, fishes, and other aquatic life. Elasmosaurs —long-necked plesiosaurs — were one group of marine reptiles that inhabited our ancient oceans.
They were primarily fish eaters, and used their long necks to strike at fish, then trapped them in their interlocking teeth. A new genus and species of elasmosaur, Albertonectes vanderveldei, was uncovered in 2007 during routine ammonite shell mining.
Albertonectes has 76 neck vertebrae, the most of any animal known — compare this to giraffes that only have seven neck vertebrae. Albertonectes had a neck that was 6.5 metres long. Was it flexible and able to bend sharply and quickly? Or was it stiff, with a gentle arc that could cover a large area? Paleontologists used computer modelling to study the neck’s flexibility. The neck broke into four segments when it collapsed on the seafloor.
More on this impressive find:
Photo: Roland Tanglao from Vancouver, Canada - 5d-dinosaur-camp-day2-20120802-64.jpgUploaded by FunkMonk, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20902049