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Well-preserved champsosaurus fossil discovered in Olds (PHOTOS)

An Olds College employee recently found an exceptionally well preserved champsosaur fossil in Olds.

Leona Megli, grounds technician, found the specimen in a remote rock bed under some debris.

“At first glance we thought it was a dried banana peel,” said Megli. “At closer glance we realized it was something much more valuable, but the last thing you think you’d find in your job is a 60-million-year-old fossil!”

The fossil was encased in rock that was moved during the campus landscaping project. The college emailed a photo to Drumheller’s Royal Tyrrell Museum and a senior technician came to investigate.

“This is an exciting find,” said Donald Brinkman, director of preservation and research at the museum.

Champsosaurs were semi-aquatic fresh water reptiles that resembled a small crocodile measuring about two metres in length. They lived 120-55 million years ago.

This specimen is from the Paleocene period, about 60 million years ago.

“Two kinds of champsosaurs lived during the Palaeocene Epoch in North America—Champsosaurus and Simoedosaurus,” said Brinkman. “Only two specimens of Simoedosaurus have been reported previously in North America—one from Saskatchewan and one from North Dakota. This specimen discovered in Olds is the rare Simoedosaurus.”

Outside North America, Simoedosaurus fossils have been found in Europe, so finding its remains in North America adds to evidence for an interchange at some point between the two continents.

The fossil is currently in the preparation lab at the Royal Tyrrell Museum as a priority specimen.

 
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