A Visit to the World's Largest Marine Reptile


So many important fossil finds have been made by non-specialists the world over, and the Peace Region of British Columbia is no exception. PRPRC palaeontologists were contacted by Mr. Lee Hollen of Fort St. John who wanted to acquaint the PRPRC scientists with a find he and his family and friends made back in the mid-1990's, which was the skeleton of a massive marine reptile Shonisaurus sikkaniensis from the mid-late Triassic. A similar specimen had been excavated at the Pink Mountain locality by the late Dr. Betsy Nicholls (Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, Drumheller, Alberta), but Mr. Hollen's specimen had not been excavated yet and was a source of concern given the intensive erosive forces in this part of the world.

The palaeontologists were delighted when Mr. Hollen offered to show them the site in August and that the trip required the use of river rafts. The trip also included Dr. Don Brinkman, Curator at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology (Drumheller), as well as Dr. Xiao-Chun Wu from the Canadian Museum of Nature (Ottawa). Both of these palaeontologists are experts in Triassic marine reptiles.

Two rafts were loaded for a trip to the giant ichthyosaur site.

 

Dr. Don Brinkman tries his hand at fishing during a break for lunch.

 

PRPRC palaeontologist Lisa Buckley does a bit of catch and release.

 

A single vertebra as large as a dinner plate from an ichthyosaur.

 

A series of articulated neck vertebrae. Most of the rest of this skeleton was complete.

 

Dr. Xiao-Chun Wu points to a part of the backbone of the over 20 metre-long ichthyosaur.

Several other skeletons of marine reptiles were present at this site. It is hoped that some of this material can be recovered some day before it gets destroyed by erosion.

 

This was a very successful trip and the palaeontologists were very grateful to Lee Hollen, his family and friends for organizing this expedition.