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Long-necked marine reptile from 80 million years ago could become B.C.’s fossil emblem

A large, ferocious-looking marine reptile with a mouthful of sharp teeth that made its home in the waters off Vancouver Island about 80 million years ago may soon become the official fossil emblem of British Columbia.

Tourism Minister Lana Popham introduced legislation Wednesday that, if passed, would add the 12-metre Puntledge River elasmosaurus to BC’s list of provincial symbols, following a five-year recognition effort by local paleontology enthusiasts.

The first fossils of elasmosaurs B.C. were discovered in 1988 along the Puntledge River in the Comox Valley and are now on display at the Courtenay and District Museum and Paleontology Centre.

In 2018, Elasmosaurus won regional competition looking for additions to the list of official BC symbols.

The museum features a large dinosaur fossil.
In 1988, a 12-metre fossil of an Elasmosaurus was discovered on Vancouver Island and is now on display at the Courtenay and District Museum. (Courtenay and District Museum)

“BC has a rich and diverse array of fossils and fossil deposits that have resulted from the complex geological processes that have shaped our province,” said Popham.

“Adding a fossil crest to our official provincial emblem is a great way to raise awareness of our natural, physical, geological provincial history.”

The legislation would add a section to BC’s Provincial Symbols and Honors Act to recognize the long-necked raptor as the province’s symbol, he said.

Popham said the legislation is largely based on a private member’s bill introduced in February by Courtenay-Comox New Democrat MP Ronna-Rae Leonard.

Leonard said he and the community have worked “relentlessly” to get the elasmosaurus recognized as a provincial fossil.

Comox County paleontology enthusiast Mike Trask and his daughter Heather found the first elasmosaurus fossil in November 1988, he said.

Its discovery marked the first fossil of its kind to be found west of the Canadian Rockies, Leonard said.

“The story inspires the family, the discoveries in our community, the opportunities that represent our entire state, which is rich in fossils, but no one knows it,” he said.

“It’s a point of pride in our community and an opportunity for the entire province.”

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