Saturday, 4 April 2020

ALBERTONECTES OF THE WESTERN INTERIOR SEAWAY

Albertonectes vanderveldei
During the Cretaceous, the Western Interior Seaway split North America into two landmasses. Part of the seaway was the Bearpaw Sea, a warm, shallow body of water that covered 1.7 million square kilometres of the coastal plain about 74 million years ago.

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.

This incredible specimen provides insight into what marine communities were like during the Cretaceous Period. The fossilized remains of other animals that lived alongside Albertonectes are found in the rocks formed at the bottom of the Bearpaw Sea. These included potential prey such as small fishes, ammonites, and crayfish. From recovered shark teeth, and tooth marks left on the bone, palaeontologists determined that the carcass of Albertonectes. was scavenged by one or more sharks.

More on this impressive find:
https://royaltyrrellmuseum.wpcomstaging.com/./albertonecte…/

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