UBC Installs Ancient \'sea Monster\' In Earth Sciences Building

The newest resident of the University of B.C.’s Earth Sciences Building is 13-metres long and about 80 million years old.

UBC’s Pacific Museum of Earth installed a full-sized skeletal cast of an Elasmosaurus — which is a genus of a Plesiosaur, an ancient marine reptile — in the building’s glass atrium last weekend.

UBC’s Pacific Museum of Earth has installed a 13-metre-long cast skeleton of an Elasmosaurus –an ancient marine reptile — in the glass atrium of the Earth Sciences Building. UBC Handout / PNG

This particular Elasmosaurus was found in a Kansas fossil bed in 1888 by famed palaeontologist Edward Drinker Cope. The shape and scale of the animal, with a neck that took up more than half its length, was like nothing Cope had seen before.

“When he originally sketched it in his field notebook he actually put the head on the tail and it started this big controversy in palaeontology that they called the bone wars,” said museum director Kirsten Hodge. “It was two palaeontologists (Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh) going back and forth publicly shaming (each other’s) work … and they eventually got it right. For this particular skeleton, the neck itself is 30 feet long.”

The length and weight of an Elasmosaurus’s neck would place the giant reptile’s centre of gravity far back behind its flippers, limiting its ability to raise its head too far out of the water.

Despite the U.S. midwest roots of the UBC example, the Elasmosaurus also swam off the waters of ancient British Columbia. The first specimen found west of the Canadian Rockies was discovered in 1988 in shale off the Puntledge River, near Courtenay. It is now on display at the Courtenay Museum & Palaeontology Centre.

UBC’s Pacific Museum of Earth has installed a 13-metre-long cast skeleton of an Elasmosaurus – an ancient marine reptile – in the glass atrium of the Earth Sciences Building. UBC Handout / PNG

The casting of UBC’s Elasmosaurus was completed by Triebold Paleontology in Colorado and shipped to UBC in sections.

Michael deRoos, a Salt Spring Island-based skeletal articular with Cetacea Contracting, was in charge of assembling, hoisting and securing the skeletal cast to the atrium’s ceiling.

“Triebold built the skeleton from molds from the actual fossils and then they shipped it here and we’ve been assembling all the components … The neck alone came in three pieces,” said deRoos.

“I typically work on whale skeletons and do all the articulation myself. First prehistoric animal that we’ve worked on. There are some structures that are the same but other things that are really quite different, being a reptile with a pectoral girdle and stuff like that. It was a little puzzling getting those pieces together.”

The 500-pound skeleton has more than 150 vertebrae, deRoos said.

“That is way more than any living animal … with that huge long neck. Fortunately most of them were preassembled so we get sections and we stick them together,” he said.

A computer generated 3D illustration of the prehistoric Plesiosaur Elasmosaurus. Getty Images file / PNG

The installation was made possible by a donation from Wheaton Precious Metals. In June, the building’s five-storey glass atrium was named the Wheaton Precious Metals Atrium.

Hodge said the Elasmosaurus skeleton is the first of four new exhibits that the Pacific Museum of Earth will be installing over the next year.

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UBC Installs Ancient \'sea Monster\' In Earth Sciences Building

Source:NBC News

UBC Installs Ancient \'sea Monster\' In Earth Sciences Building

UBC Installs Ancient \'sea Monster\' In Earth Sciences Building

Source:PBS

UBC Installs Ancient \'sea Monster\' In Earth Sciences Building

UBC Installs Ancient \'sea Monster\' In Earth Sciences Building

Source:Phys.org

UBC Installs Ancient \'sea Monster\' In Earth Sciences Building

UBC Installs Ancient \'sea Monster\' In Earth Sciences Building

Source:PBS

UBC Installs Ancient \'sea Monster\' In Earth Sciences Building