Discovered in Greenland one of the earliest primitive Atlantic animals


The paleontologist Octávio Mateus announced the discovery of plesiosaur fossils, more precisely, a marine reptile, which witnessed the first foray into the sea during the opening of the Atlantic about 200 million years ago.

The paleontologist Octávio Mateus, the only Portuguese scientist on paleontological expeditions to Greenland, announced the discovery of fossils of plesiosaurus, a marine reptile that witnessed the first foray into the sea during the Atlantic opening more than 200 million years ago.

An announcement launched this month at a scientific congress by researchers Jesper Milan, Octávio Mateus, Lars Clemmensen and Marco Marzola validated this finding of “the oldest plesiosaur in Greenland, about 200 million years old, and the first marine animals to explore that Zone “at the beginning of the separation of the European and North American continents, which resulted in the opening of the Atlantic Ocean, Octávio told Lusa.

The Professor of the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the New University of Lisbon and researcher of the Museum of Lourinhã, who in the year 2012 and already this last year of 2016, integrated international expeditions to Greenland, explained that the scientists had excavated only animals of “Terrestrial environments” of the Triassic, with 220 million years, like amphibians, dinosaurs and phytosaurs, reptiles similar to crocodiles.

“In layers a little higher up, therefore more recent, from the Lower Jurassic, we found three bones [vertebrae and ribs]which are of a plesiosaur, which is a marine animal, thus is one of the first marine vertebrates linked to the Atlantic opening and witness A change linked to the opening of the Atlantic”, he explained.

Due to the scarcity of fossil material, scientists are unable to identify the genus and species of plesiosaurus.

Last summer, in 2016, the four investigators excavated traces of phytosaurs in Greenland from a species yet to be determined.

In addition, it may bring new explanations for paleogeography. “If it is more related to a European species, it means that from the paleogeographic point of view that area of Greenland had terrestrial connections with Europe. If it is more related to North American species, it shows the opposite”, said the expert, clarifying that “most of the fauna of that region has a greater European affinity, which is strange, because from a geological point of view Greenland belongs to the American continent”.

“All that territory has yet to be explored. It is an opportunity for paleontologists to discover new material”, he added.

Being an inhospitable and polar place, paleontologists are transported by helicopter for expeditions and have to take tents for overnight stays, food supplies and were taught to handle weapons to deal with possible encounters with polar bears.

The findings excavated on the last scientific expedition, have just arrived at the laboratory of the Museum of Lourinhã to be prepared and studied and then followed for exhibition in a Danish museum, the Geocenter Moensklint.

“It is a way to continue working with institutions from several countries with projects and materials that have come from other parts of the globe, from Mozambique, Angola and the United States of America”, said Lubélia Gonçalves, chairman of the Ethnography and Archeology of Lourinhã, association that manages the museum.

This is the largest foreign collection received by the Lourinhã Museum.