A four-metre-long plesiosaur skeleton has been discovered by in Northern Germany by an amateur palaeontologist. 19-year-old fossil collector Sönke Simonsen discovered the specimen in June whilst looking for fossils with his dad in a quarry at Tongrube in Kreis Hoxter, near Bielefeld. “The first thing I discovered was a caudal-vertebra” said Simonsen, “but then I realised that to the left and also to the right direction there were more and more vertebrae.” The specimen is almost complete, but unfortunately the head has not yet been found. The fossil hunters contacted the local LWL-Museum für Naturkunde, Münster, who have initiated an excavation to collect the specimen. The plesiosaur has elongated cervical vertebrae and a long neck, typical elasmosaurid features.
Some neck vertebrae of the new german plesiosaur (photo from here)
The specimen is especially important for two reasons. Firstly, plesiosaurs are very rare in the north of Germany, and this represents the first significantly complete specimen of a long-necked plesiosaur from this region. Secondly, the specimen was discovered in rocks that are Pliensbachian (Lower Jurassic) in age. This period in plesiosaur history is very poorly known, so the new specimen may provide rare information on the evolution of plesiosaurs during the Jurassic.