Many years ago, the waters above Vancouver Island were inhabited by some very large, swimming creatures and one of them is about to celebrate a very big birthday.
The beast is a staple of the Courtenay Museum and was discovered in the 1980s not far from it, according to the museum’s natural history curator Pat Trask.
“Nov. 12, 1988, my twin brother Mike and his daughter Heather were out down at the Puntledge River about three kilometres from the museum, and they were looking for fossils that day,” said Trask. “They discovered the bones of a large, extinct reptile called Elasmosaur.”
Trask says the animal is believed to be about 80 million years old. The discovery was very important for the museum, as it is the only Elasmosaur found west of the Canadian Rockies, and it is older than many others, according to Trask.
“They’re very rare in the Pacific. There’s some down in California but they’re maybe about 15 million years younger,” said Trask. “This is like the great granddaddy of those ones.”
Trask adds there is currently no scientific name for the Pacific Elasmosaur, and the word is a generic family name for the long-necked Plesiosaurs.
The animal has also been voted in favour of becoming B.C.’s provincial fossil, according to Trask. He says this is a big step for the science of paleontology in the province.
“It’s going to be elevated to the status of the dogwood and western red cedar,” he said. “Every kid in the province going to have to learn that the Elasmosaur is our provincial fossil.”
Trask adds there could be more fossils found on the island, with over 150 kilometres of fossil bed being exposed by rivers. In 2020, Trask found the skeleton of a juvenile Elasmosaur that he says is one of only two found in the world.
Trask says if a fossil is found, a scientist should be contacted for them to collect and the fossils are the property of the province.
The Elasmosaur will be celebrating its 80,000,34 birthday on Saturday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Courtenay Museum.
Trask says there will be cake to celebrate the moment.