New fossil offers glimpse into Manitoba's prehistoric past

A new exhibit featuring a rare 90-million-year-old fossil is now on display at the Manitoba Museum.

90-million-year-old pliosaur fossil discovered in western Manitoba in 2002

Chomper is a 90-million-year-old pliosaur that was discovered in western Manitoba. (courtesy Manitoba Musuem)

A new exhibit featuring a rare 90-million-year-old fossil is now on display at the Manitoba Museum.

The fossil, called Chomper, is a pliosaur that lived during the Cretaceous period. ​The ancient reptile was recovered by amateur paleontologist Wayne Buckley in 2002 and donated to the museum in 2014.

It is the first nearly complete pliosaur to ever be collected in Canada, said the museum.

"The addition of this world-class pliosaur skeleton is a great way to engage people in the story of Manitoba's prehistoric past," said Claudette Leclerc, executive director and CEO of the Manitoba Museum, in a news release.
A reproduction of what Chomper's skeleton would have looked like based on the reptiles 90-million-year-old fossil. (courtesy of the Manitoba Museum)

The specimen could improve our understanding of the creatures that once dominated the waters over what is now Manitoba.

Pliosaurs are rarely found complete because their skulls are often separated from their bodies during decomposition, said Graham Young, curator of geology and paleontology at the Manitoba Museum.

"Since we have both the skull and paddles (flippers), this fossil can tell scientists a lot that was previously unknown about pliosaurs. It is being actively studied by scientists from Tokyo's Gakugei University and the Canadian Museum of Nature, who plan to write a paper about this discovery," he said.

Pliosaurs like Chomper were large marine reptiles that were once on the top of the aquatic food chain.

When fully grown, they measured 12 metres long (40 feet) or longer. Chomper measured about 5½ metres long (18 feet) when it died, said the Manitoba Museum.

Along with seeing the new fossil, visitors to the museum have the chance to see what Chomper would have looked like through a new re-creation of its skeleton suspended from the ceiling.

Visitors can find Chomper and its skeletal representation in the Manitoba Museum's Earth history gallery.