. Scientific Frontline: Paleontologists Discovered Unique Remains of Paleogene Reptiles in the Urals

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Paleontologists Discovered Unique Remains of Paleogene Reptiles in the Urals

Rare remains have been found in the Sverdlovsk and Kurgan Regions
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ural Federal University

At the river Miass (Kurgan Region) paleontologists of the Ural Branch of the Institute of Ecology of Animals and Plants of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Ural Federal University discovered rare for the Urals and Siberia finds - vertebrae of a sea snake and a piece of a turtle shell. Approximate dating of bones - 45-35 million years, but the exact figures have not yet been established. The findings were sent to the Paleontological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow for further research.

"This is the second such unique find, and we were lucky to study both of them. The fact is that fossil remains of Paleogene snakes from the territory of Western and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia are quite well described, but such finds are not known in the Urals and Western Siberia. Last year we managed to find a vertebra of a sea snake on the Dernei River in the Sverdlovsk Region. This year, our friend and paleontology enthusiast Alexey Sofrygin showed us a snake vertebra from a new spot - the Miass River. Unfortunately, we did not find any other vertebrae when we conducted a complete study of the Miass River sediments. However, we did find a piece of a turtle shell. This is also an extremely rare find," says Dmitry Gimranov, Head of Research, Senior Researcher at the Laboratory of Natural Science Methods in Humanities of the Ural Federal University.

The discovered specimens represent the northernmost distribution point of sea snakes in Asia. It is also confirmation of the fact that there was a sea on the territory of Western Siberia and the Urals in the late Eocene.

In addition, paleontologists have found teeth of large sharks and remains of bony fish in the Kurgan Region.

"Shark teeth lie almost intact in layers exposed on the steep slopes of the Miass River. My colleagues and I used brushes, spatulas and knives to remove the layers of bone remains of vertebrates from the Eocene period, sifted, washed, sorted and made valuable findings for researchers," says Dmitry Gimranov.

At the beginning of the Paleogene a unified marine system existed in central Eurasia: the inland Turanian and West Siberian seas connected the Tethys with the Arctic Ocean. The connection of the inland basins with the southern currents of the Tethys contributed to the wide distribution of sea snakes, whose presence is closely related to the warm climate. Bone remains of sea snakes are known from deposits from Europe, Asia, North Africa, including Ukraine, Crimea, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan. Finding of sea snake for Eocene (45-35 Ma) in Western Siberia is diagnosed for the first time. It confirms the existence of Late Eocene marine basins in this area together with the accompanying ichthyofauna.

Published in journal: None

Source/CreditUral Federal University

Reference Number: pal061423_01

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