Around 90 million-years ago a large seaway covered much of the interior of North America.
The paleontological site and the fossils contained therein, tell the story that 92 million-years ago, the Carrot River Valley was a vast seaway, rich with a wide variety of sea life.
The site is one of very few marine life fossil discoveries to be made from the Cretaceous period of history. The fossils now being discovered here are among the most complete found anywhere. While fossil finds have been known for more than 30 years along the Carrot River, it was the exploration in 1991 that led to the discovery of a 92 million-year-old, 7 metre long, teleorhinus (or crocodilian). The crocodilian is now affectionately called "Big Bert".
The Carrot River cuts into the bedrock exposing a grey-black shale. This fine grained shale indicates a marine setting as do the types of fossils that encased therein. By identifying the types of pollen and Foraminifera (single-celled organisms) in the rock, scientists are able to put the sedimentary rocks into a local sequence and can also establish a relative age.
One of the three known fossil sites is from the Ashville Formation (Late Cenomanian Stage) which has been radiometrically dated elsewhere at 92 million-years B.P..
The other two sites are from the Favel Formation (Early Turonian Stage) which has been radiometrically dated elsewhere at 89 million-years B.P..
It is hoped that in the near future scientists will be able to radiometrically date some of the volcanic ash beds that are found.
All of the fish from this site are disarticulated, and the skeletons have come apart scattering the bones randomly. Recognizable parts include scales, ribs, vertebrae and scull fragments. Due to the vast quantity of fish bones (numbering in the thousands) it can be surmised that many different types of fish were important members of the fauna.
Shark teeth are the most commonly recovered elements from the skeleton. From this site we have retrieved hundreds of shark teeth that represents many species including the typical flesh eaters as well as mollusc crushers.
Only three fragments of turtle bones can be confidently identified; one shell fragment, and two limb bones.
The general body plan of a plesiosaur is a fat body, small tail, large paddles, and relatively long necks and short heads. From this site we have ribs, paddle bones and vertebrae of the short necked variety of plesiosaurs (called pliosaurids) and the long necked kind (elasmosaurids). These truly marine reptiles swam in the sea using their short tail as a rudder and their paddles for propulsion. They probably fed on fish.
Two vertebrae have been recovered, probably belonging to a herbivorous dinosaur whose carcass floated out to sea after death.
Over 130 individual bones of at least three species of birds are so far recognized. All appear to be of the variety that possessed teeth (as a group they are called Odontornithes). This evolutionary adaption would enable these birds, some of which could not fly, to be fairly active fish eaters.
Two other sites in the Favel Formation produce isolated fish bones and plenty of shark teeth. However in 1991 staff of the Saskatchewan Museum of Natural History, Regina, and the Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, located a partial skeleton of a crocodile now identified as belonging to the Genus Teleorhinus.
By looking at the body of the skeleton we can surmise a few things about its life.
It's long slender snout which possessed long, slender teeth would be ideal for catching fish. It's comparatively short, weak front limbs would tuck alongside the body, reducing drag while the tail and back limbs propelled and guided the body through the water.
We estimate that the body of this crocodile was approximately 25 feet long.
The crocodile is the first of its kind in Canada and one of only four specimens known in North America. It also has a number of peculiarities that were previously unknown.
Did you know...
Since 1991, many more discoveries including large fish, shark teeth, plesiosaurs, dinosaurs and teethed birds. In 1995, the Province of Saskatchewan declared the site a Provincial Heritage Site.
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