65 million year old fossils found during UA summer camp - WVTM-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Birmingham, AL

65 million year old fossils found during UA summer camp

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© Artist rendering of an elasmosaur, created by UA student Asher Elbein © Artist rendering of an elasmosaur, created by UA student Asher Elbein
TUSCALOOSA, AL -

A team from the University of Alabama has discovered fossils of an animal they believe lived 80 million years ago.    

Vertebrae from a Plesiosaur were found during a UA summer camp in Greene County. A middle school student made the first discovery of the bones.

A version of the "loch ness monster," is what one UA paleontologist said is the closest image to the 45-feet long Plesiosaur.

Dr. Dand Ehret said, "We don't typically find a lot of large marine predators in the fossil record so for us here in Alabama it's quite an exciting discovery."    

The team found 15-20 vertebrae they believed belonged to one marine reptile they think lived 80 million years ago, based on sediment the bones were found in. 

"They had relatively short bodies, very short tails. They had paddles instead of arms and legs and they had extremely long necks," Dr. Ehret said.  

The team said the animal had about 70 vertebrae in the neck alone. Total they found about 50 to 70 pounds of fossils and sediment.   

The top predators, Ehert said, were found on what he believes was the coast line, now part of "Alabama's Black Belt."

Because of Alabama's current climate the team said this type of find is rare, so rare the student that made the discovery didn't believe it. 

A faculty member of UA's Geological Sciences department Dr. Takehito Ikejiri said, "It was funny because he was bringing two pieces. First piece it wasn't bone. He was asking me, Dr. Ike is this bone? And I said no. But second piece he was asking me this is not bone is it? It was bone." 

Ehert said this find helps put the pieces of Alabama's ecosystem 80 million years ago, together.

Eventually the fossils will be on display at the Alabama Museum of Natural History in Smith Hall on UA's campus. 

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