These bones of a juvenile plesiosaur are in the lab at the Courtenay Museum. Photo supplied

Fossil discovery could be Comox Valley’s second elasmosaur

The skeletal remains of an ancient swimming reptile called a plesiosaur have been discovered on the banks of the Trent River south of Courtenay.

Pat Trask, who in recent years has been finding bones along the river, says the rib cage that he found about four weeks ago could belong to an elasmosaur, a type of plesiosaur. If so, it would be the second elasmosaur discovery in the Comox Valley. Trask’s twin brother Mike found a bigger one along the banks of the Puntledge River in 1988. It is on display at the Courtenay and District Museum & Paleontology Centre.

“To find another elasmosaur is kind of freaky, because they’re really rare,” said Trask, the earth sciences curator at the museum. He estimates the bones are 85 million years old.

“There’s a bunch of fingers and stuff in there. I haven’t found all of its neck…Its head might even be there. I found some teeth. That tells me his head might be underneath.”

Trask had constructed a platform underneath the main body, but he needs to extend it to further explore the area. At this point, he has taken two plaster jackets full of bones to the museum. He figures about 60 per cent of the creature has been recovered.

Trask said the bones belonged to a juvenile plesiosaur.

“It might be a short-neck plesiosaur. I’ve pretty well just found his body — more than half of a body, with all the bones in place…Most of the time these things get eaten. We’re lucky here in the Comox Valley, the water depth was pretty deep, so I think these creatures were away from the large predators, mostly.

“He’s going to be less than half the size of the one at the museum. The bones are in good shape, they’re way better than the other elasmosaur. All the definition’s in them. The other ones were more corroded. So this one might be identifiable, it could be named.”

Trask reminds the public that the Courtenay Museum is open five days a week. It’s located at 207 4th St.

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