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Sea Monster Fossil Discovered By Montana Hunter Is Actually a Previously Unknown Type of Elasmosaur

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The newly named short-necked elasmosaur, Nakonanectes bradti, swims through an ancient sea in this artist’s reconstruction (James Havens/University of Alaska Fairbanks)
The newly named short-necked elasmosaur, Nakonanectes bradti, swims through an ancient sea in this artist’s reconstruction (James Havens/University of Alaska Fairbanks)

 

Seven years ago, elk hunter David Bradt found a fossil that he mistook for a triceratops. Scientists have now identified it as a prehistoric sea monster that is called Nakonanectes bradt.

This new specimen is a type of elasmosaur, which were carnivorous sea-dwellers with 18-foot-long necks. But unlike previously-discovered elasmosaur fossils, Nakonanectes bradti has a shorter neck—a mere 40 vertebrae long instead of the more typical 76 for the species.

UA Museum of the North paleontologist Patrick Druckenmiller (center) excavates the skull and neck of the new elasmosaur with the assistance of some of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees who dedicated their time to the project (Beverly Skinner/University of Alaska Fairbanks)
UA Museum of the North paleontologist Patrick Druckenmiller (center) excavates the skull and neck of the new elasmosaur with the assistance of some of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees who dedicated their time to the project (Beverly Skinner/University of Alaska Fairbanks)

 

Bradt’s find is one of the best-preserved elasmosaur finds to date, and it challenges established theories about how the species evolved over time.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Danielle Serratos said that this fossil “provides evidence that … elasmosaurs did not simply develop longer and longer necks over millions of years of evolution.” In fact, because this fossil is also one of the youngest on record, the species may have evolved shorter necks over time.

Read the research team’s paper on Nakonanectes bradt, which was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

—RealClearLife