Fossil of ancient sea turtle discovered in Puntledge River

Fossil of ancient sea turtle discovered in Puntledge River

The Puntledge River in Courtenay is already known by paleontologists for its prehistoric discoveries and now, another has been added to the list after a local fossil hunter made a new discovery along the water’s edge in January.

“Walking along this section just looking for concretions, looking for fossils and sure enough I found a little brown patch in there that I kind of chipped around and it was bone,” said Russ Ball.

He sent photos to the Royal BC Museum that confirmed it was some type of turtle.

The museum is now helping to extract the fossil, painstakingly chipping away at the rock around it.

“We’ve been digging and trying to find the edges of it and once you find the edges you move in until you get rid of all the rock you don’t need,” added Ball.

“It’s largely still covered in rock, we just have a bit of bone sticking out here and there,” said Derek Larson, RBCM Collections Manager, Researcher Paleontology. “We’re just going to gather up the whole thing, bring it back to the lab where we can identify it.”

By late Thursday afternoon, the rock containing the fossil had been encased in a plaster cast and will be removed from the riverbed on Friday.

Two other turtles have been found in the area, but they’re still not sure what species the latest find is.

“It’s not a close relative of a green sea turtle but it might look something sort of similar to that and it was the type of turtle that was living alongside the dinosaurs back when Vancouver Island was farther south,” added Larson.

The Puntledge River is the site of two significant dinosaur discoveries.

“About a kilometre upstream is the famous Elasmosaur site that was found back in the 80s and then just downstream from there a Mosasaur was found,” explained Dan Bowen of the Vancouver Island Paleontological Society.

“There’s so much that we don’t know about the BC fossil records, I’m really excited to learn what this turtle is and what it can tell us about the environment,” said Larson.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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