Confusion over Norwegian Pliosaur Excavations
To the north of Norway, half-way between the Norwegian coast and the North Pole lies the archipelago of Svalbard. Over the last few summers the local population of under 3,000 has been swelled by the arrival of a number of teams of palaeontologists keen to study the rich fossil bearing strata of the islands. Following in the footsteps of geologists who have been exploring the island’s geology in search of further coal measures as well as reserves of oil and natural gas, on behalf of Norway’s state run coal mining company.
The strata consists mainly of marine deposits. A number of marine reptiles have already been found, particularly plesiosaurs and their short-necked relatives the pliosaurs. These finds are helping scientists to learn more about the fauna in the seas of the Mesozoic and for Norwegian scientists starved of dinosaur remains to study, these discoveries are helping to put Mesozoic Norway on the palaeontological map.
With much of Norway consisting of igneous and metamorphic rocks, dinosaur fossils are exceptionally rare. To date only one small dinosaur bone has been found in the country and that was down to an incredible piece of luck!
Read about Norway’s first dinosaur: Norway’s First Dinosaur – say hello to Plateosaurus.
To view a model of Norway’s first dinosaur and other prehistoric animals: Prehistoric Animal Models.
A team of scientists from the University of Oslo are currently working on a number of sites, one of which is a dig site that is slowly revealing the remains of a huge predator that swam in the sea that covered this area 150 million years ago in the late Jurassic.
An initial excavation of this dig site has unearthed teeth, partial skull material and a number of vertebrae of a pliosaur. As yet, the size of the animal has not been accurately calculated but estimates indicate that this animal may have been 40 feet (13 metres) long. It has been nick-named “Predator X”.
There does seem to be some confusion as to whether or not this particular find relates to a new species of pliosaur. A number of news releases have claimed that these remains are those of a new species, but there seems to be some doubt as to this. Attempting to clarify the situation a spokesman for the University of Oslo stated that this new find was not new to science, early indications are that it is the same species as a pliosaur discovered last year at a different location in the Svalbard islands. The Norwegian team intend to return to this dig site next year and to carry out further excavation work. It will be some time before the site is probably studied as the inclement weather can disrupt work, but at least at such high latitudes, the Svalbard summer permits the team to work virtually all night if required as the sun hardly dips below the horizon.
Once the site has been cleared and the remains studied and any papers peer reviewed the team should be able to publish further information on their discovery.