A large, fierce-looking marine reptile with a mouth full of pointed teeth that lived about 80 million years ago in the waters off Vancouver Island could soon become the official fossil emblem of British Columbia.
Tourism Minister Lana Popham introduced legislation Wednesday that, if passed, will add the 12-metre Puntledge River elasmosaur to British Columbia’s list of provincial symbols after a five-year recognition effort by enthusiasts of local paleontology.
The first elasmosaur fossils in British Columbia were found in 1988 along the Puntledge River in the Comox Valley, and are now on display at the Courtenay and District Museum and Paleontology Centre.
In 2018, the elasmosaur won a provincial-level contest seeking additions to BC’s list of official symbols.
“BC has a rich and diverse variety of fossils and fossil deposits, resulting from the complex geological processes that formed our province,” Popham said.
“Adding a fossil emblem to our official provincial symbol is a great way to raise awareness of our provincial natural, physical and geological history.”
The legislation will add a section to British Columbia’s Provincial Honors and Symbols Act to recognize the long-necked predator as a symbol of the province, he said.
Popham said the legislation is largely based on a private member’s bill introduced in February by Courtenay-Comox New Democrat MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard.
Leonard said she and the community put in a “tireless” effort to get the elasmosaur recognized as the provincial fossil.
Comox-area paleontology enthusiast Mike Trask and his daughter, Heather, found the first elasmosaur fossil in November 1988, he said.
Its discovery marked the first such fossil found west of the Canadian Rockies, Leonard said.
“The story is inspiring about the family, the discovery in our community, the opportunities that arise for our entire province that is rich in fossils but no one knows it,” he said.
“It is a source of pride for our community and an opportunity for the entire province.”