A public dig organized by the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre has turned up the biggest fossil find in Manitoba in nearly 30 years.
The summer dig near the centre in Morden, Man., that is still underway has already unearthed a mosasaur, an 11-metre-long ancient sea creature estimated to be 80 million years old.
"Fossils are rare in general," said centre spokeswoman Anita Janzic. "Normally when people come on a dig, they will find something — but to find a large tylosaur like this, it's pretty rare."
The mosasaur, dubbed Angus, isn't the first to be discovered by the centre; a 13-metre-long specimen given the name Bruce was found in 1974 near Thornhill, Man., just south of where Angus was located. Bruce's fossils and a full-scale reproduction of him are now on display in the centre's museum.
Angus wasn't the only exciting discovery at the centre this summer; the dig also uncovered what Janzic describes as a "death assemblage," a collection of bones from different species, all in the same area.
"That's pretty rare to find them all together," Janzic said. "We've got a tooth from a shark, [more] mosasaur bones, fish bones, at least two different species of fish, plesiosaur bones, as well as some bird bones."
Mosasaurs were air-breathing, scaly skinned, flesh-eating lizards that swam in an inland sea during the Cretaceous Period, between 65 million and 135 million years ago, centre officials said. While they resemble modern alligators, the monitor lizard of Asia and Africa is considered its closest living relative.
They were named after the Meuse River in Europe, near where the first mosasaur discoveries were made.