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North Island elasmosaur in running for B.C. Provincial Symbol

VANCOUVER ISLAND, B.C. – Pat Trask is shining the provincial spotlight on the Comox Valley’s elasmosaur.

And he needs your help.

According to Canada Post, the elasmosaur, which has not yet been given a scientific name, is a vicious marine reptile with a neck nearly seven metres long that helped it hunt its prey 83 million years ago. Its fossils were discovered in 1988 by Michael Trask and his daughter Heather, who were prospecting for fossils on the banks of the Puntledge River in Courtenay.

This was the first find of an elasmosaur west of the Canadian Rockies.

Pat Trask, the curator of natural history at the Courtenay Museum, describes the elasmosaur as “the 80-million-year-old great granddaddy of the vampire squid from hell.”
Now, he wants the elasmosaurus to join the iconic list of the official Provincial Symbols of British Columbia.

Seven fossil candidates have been shortlisted through a public process in partnership with the British Columbia Paleontological Alliance (BCPA). The following criteria were used to select the fossil candidates:
– Be well known and easily recognizable;
– be more or less unique to British Columbia;
– reflect the unique geography of British Columbia;
– have wide appeal to a general audience;
– serve as an educational vehicle through which the biology, ecology, and geology of the time it represents can be made clear; and
– be amenable to designs for posters, displays and logos.

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The elasmosaur is one of the candidates to be the provincial fossil.

The online voting process uses a web-based questionnaire tool, SurveyMonkey, which allows one vote per computer profile and includes a simple verification step to avoid development of computer scripts for automatic votes.

“There are seven candidates and we’re kinda hoping that elasmosaur might win,” Trask said. “That would be cool and would bring a lot of attention to our community because we are trying to be a centre for palaeontology in the province.”

The voting period will close on Friday, Nov. 23. The number of votes for each candidate will be tabulated through the survey tool.

The fossil with the most votes will be recommended for consideration as the provincial fossil emblem.

To vote for your favourite fossil, which includes the elasmosaurus, click here.

Regarding the elasmosaur, Trask said the discovery “genuinely sparked a whole new wave of paleontological research on Vancouver Island. From that discovery… probably about 20 or 30 different species of animals have been described by scientists from around the world, from our marine deposits right here in the Comox Valley.”

B.C.’s list of official symbols and emblems include:
Pacific Dogwood – adopted as the floral emblem in 1956
Jade – adopted as official gemstone in 1968
Stellar’s Jay – adopted as official bird in 1987
Western Red Cedar – adopted as official tree in 1988
Spirit Bear – adopted as the mammal emblem in 2006
Pacific Salmon – adopted as the fish emblem in 2013.

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