High School student helps University scientists find rare fossil - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

High School student helps University scientists find rare fossil

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TUSCALOOSA - AL -

 Typically, fossils found deep into soil in old fields look like rocks -- so, it explains why a high school student on a field digging experiment with University of Alabama paleontologists this summer thought what he pulled out was just another rock.

"He brought two pieces to me. One piece. He says Ikejiri is this bone. I say no rock throw away. He say this is not bone is -- yes this is bone.," said Prof. Takehito Ikejiri.

  What he had turned out to be a rare vertebrae from a dinosaur-looking creature called Plesiosaurs that lived 80 million years ago.  Yes, Paleontologist Dana Ehret says they lived in Alabama "In the ocean that was present over Alabama during that time period," he explains.

   He showed a toy model of how plesiosaurs looked during the Mesozoic Era.  There were about 45 feet long, mostly neck and fish eaters with paddle feet because they lived on water and not on land.

"They were really top predators during the late cretaceous time. And so we don't usually find a lot of large marine predators in the fossil records."

   That's why the discovery is really blowing their minds.  The student was helping them on a dig at a private quarry in Greene County when he stumbled upon the bones.  "Right now we have between 15-20 vertebrae for sure"....

   Ehret says Plesiosaurs typically had about 70 back bones.  Although his group didn't find any skulls skeletal feet from the creature -- you can bet they've gone back looking... "Unfortunately the site has been quarried for fill. And we think the rest of the animal might have been quarried out and now may be sitting under a road somewhere. It might be gone."

    Once the group is done studying the Plesiosaurs remains, it plans to display them in the Alabama Museum of Natural History.

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