Scientists in Alaska have discovered the most complete leftovers of rare dinosaur fossil ever found in North American excavation history.
The fossil, almost in its entirety, is that of a thalattosaur, a prehistoric marine reptile which went extinct 200 million years ago in the Triassic Period. It was found on a beach in Anchorage back in June by scientists from the Museum of the North and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
The most astonishing detail of the discovery: Nearly the entire skeleton was present.
"In North America, this may be the most articulated specimen that we have right now," said Jim Baichtal, U.S. Forest Service's Tongass geologist, who was part of the discovery team.
Geologists were conducting field surveys during extreme low tide at Tongass National Forest when stumbling upon the fossil, according to Baichtal, that the team thought was a fish.
"We were just having our morning coffee out on the outcropping when somebody said, 'What's that?'' he said.
Since its extraction in June, a team of scientists have been studying the findings to verify the species. Only about a dozen other thalattosaurs have been found in the world, with the most complete fossils found in China, Baichtal said.
This particular fossil, according to Reuters, contains an outline of the soft-body tissue surrounding the bone, which can possibly give scientists a clue on what the actual shape of the thalattosaur body was, which measured from three to ten feet long.
The team under Baichtal will return to excavate the area it was found for additional pieces of the fossil.