Swimming Elasmosaur

This majestic sea creature once swam through the Cretaceous sea. The original skeleton was discovered in 1868 in Kansas and was first described by palaeontologist Edward Drinker Cope. This particular skeleton has an interesting story. In Cope’s initial sketches of the marine reptile, he incorrectly reconstructed the elasmosaur with its head placed on its tail. This early mistake started the famous “1870s Bone Wars” during which time palaeontologist Othniel Charles Marsh publicly pointed out Cope’s mix-up.

The elasmosaur has local B.C. roots as well. The first elasmosaur found west of the Canadian Rockies was discovered in 1988 in shale off the Puntledge River, near Courtenay, BC. Complete specimens of this marine reptile are rare, but partial and fragmentary skulls give us a nearly complete look at its fantastic features, potential diet and ecology. The museum exhibit team is currently developing interactive teaching and learning materials that will enhance this new permanent installation.

Photo Credit: Philippe Roberge