The fossilized remains of an ancient marine reptile with an extremely long neck and paddlelike appendages were recently uncovered in an unlikely place: the side of a cliff in Alaska.
The bones belong to an elasmosaur, an animal that swam the seas about 75 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period, said Patrick Druckenmiller, earth sciences curator at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. It's the first time that the skeleton of one of these creatures has been found in the state, he added.
"This is a very unusual group of marine reptiles that belongs to a larger group known as plesiosaurs, Druckenmiller told Live Science. "Elasmosaurs are famous because they have these ridiculously long necks and relatively small skulls."
Most of the newly uncovered elasmosaur's bones are still lodged in a rocky cliff in the Talkeetna Mountains of southern Alaska, so no one has measured the full skeleton yet. But Druckenmiller, who visited the fossil site in June, estimates that the animal was about 25 feet long, with a neck that made up half its body length.