UBC museum welcomes ancient sea monster

Elasmosaurus skeleton in ESB's Wheaton Precious Metals Atrium

The cast skeleton of an ancient marine reptile—with a neck so long and heavy it would have barely been able raise its head above water—has taken up residence at UBC's Pacific Museum of Earth (PME).

The 13-metre-long, resin-cast Elasmosaurus skeleton was installed in the glass atrium of the University's Earth Sciences Building this weekend.

"We hope to ignite a sense of amazement and curiosity in visitors as they imagine this majestic sea creature swimming through a Cretaceous sea,” says Kirsten Hodge, Director of PME. "Complete specimens of this marine reptile are rare, but partial and fragmentary skulls give us a nearly complete look at its fantastic features, potential diet and ecology."

The PME is developing interactive teaching and learning materials that will the new permanent installation to life. The Elasmosaurus display compliments the PME’s focus on illuminating the evolution of Earth. The University's natural history collections already house a Lambeosaurus skeleton (a duck-billed, hooded dinosaur) and Canada’s largest blue whale skeleton installed at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum.

UBC's Elasmosaurus is made possible with the support of Wheaton Precious Metals. The Vancouver-based resource sector company also supported construction of UBC’s Earth Sciences Building. In June, the building's five-storey glass atrium was named the Wheaton Precious Metals Atrium.

Elasmosaurus facts

  • The Elasmosaurus was a plesiosaur, a marine reptile, not a dinosaur.
  • They lived in North America during the Late Cretaceous period 80 million years ago, alongside the dinosaurs.
  • Elasmosaurs likely inhabited the Western Interior Seaway, a continental sea covering central North America at the time.
  • Elasmosaurs have BC roots as well. The first specimen found west of the Canadian Rockies was discovered in 1988 in shale off the Puntledge River, near Courtenay.
  • The PME’s replica skeleton measures 42 feet (13 metres) long—with more than half of that length (7 meters or 23 feet) taken up by neck.
  • The length and weight of an Elasmosaurus's neck would place the giant reptile’s centre of gravity far back behind its flippers, limiting its ability to raise its head too far out of the water.
  • Only one confirmed complete Elasmosaurus skeleton has been discovered. The Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa also features a replica plesiosaur skeleton.

The skeleton assembly and installation was led by Mike deRoos of Cetacea Contracting, a Salt Spring Island company that specializes in the design and articulation of marine and terrestrial skeletons, and science outreach.

B-roll of the Elasmosaurus install

Photos of the Elasmosaurus install

UBC's natural history collections already house a Lambeosaurus skeleton and Canada’s largest blue whale skeleton