Croc’s remains a rare discovery

Lawyer's find 90 million years old

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A lawyer for Legal Aid Manitoba's Dauphin office, who moonlights as a part-time paleontologist, recently discovered the remains of a 90-million-year-old crocodile while scouring the bank of the Wilson River for fish fossils.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/08/2009 (4736 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A lawyer for Legal Aid Manitoba’s Dauphin office, who moonlights as a part-time paleontologist, recently discovered the remains of a 90-million-year-old crocodile while scouring the bank of the Wilson River for fish fossils.

Chris Tait was walking back from the job site when he saw a rib bone sticking out of the riverbank. He dug down 2.4 metres to unveil the extent of his discovery.

It’s not a perfectly preserved skeleton by any means — he found the legs, backbone and scales — but it’s enough to convince him he wouldn’t have wanted to come nose to nose with the six-metre creature in the flesh.

Canadian Museum of Nature Marine crocodile Terminonaris, shown in an artist’s rendering.

"It would have been an upper-level predator, towards the top of the food chain," Tait said. "It would have been one of the bigger animals around. It might have been attacking other large reptiles that were in the sea."

Tait speculated any number of things could have happened to the rest of the crocodile’s body, including being eaten by sharks, rotting as it floated through the water or simply being washed away.

Anita-Maria Janzic, curator of the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden, said Tait’s crocodile is older than the majority of the marine reptile remains it has on display — most of them are between 80 million to 83 million years old — but it’s the species she finds exciting.

"The fact it’s a marine crocodile is very uncommon. There aren’t that many in the province. It’s very rare for Manitoba for that time period," she said.

Janzic said most of the Prairies were covered by water at the time, but there were probably peninsulas in the area where the crocodile could have beached itself for a rest.

She said she would love to discuss bringing the crocodile bones to Morden for a temporary exhibit to complement the centre’s collection of sharks, squids, mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, turtles, fish and some rare birds. Shannon Patterson, manager of the Fort Dauphin Museum, said the crocodile will undoubtedly be one of its feature attractions when it’s unveiled later this year.

The remains are currently in the fossil discovery centre being prepared for display. Keeners, however, can get a sneak peak, she said.

"If somebody comes by and wants to see them, all they have to do is ask me and I’ll grab my keys and let them in there," she said.

"We have a number of other artifacts that are pretty old, but if the crocodile isn’t the oldest, it’s pretty close," Patterson said.

Tait said there’s no question the crocodile represents his greatest find. And even though he’s becoming known as "the crocodile guy" in Dauphin, he has no plans to leave the legal profession for a full-time career as a paleontologist.

"One of my profs in undergrad told me, ‘You’re never one thing in life anyway. We all do work in different areas and enjoy different things.’ That’s part of what makes life so enjoyable," Tait said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

 

 

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