'Plesiosaur' added to Underwater World at the Heritage Center

Apr 27, 2018

Artist rendering of pleisosaur.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The Underwater World gallery at the Heritage Center in Bismarck has a new resident.

A plesiosaur.

"The actual name of this animal would be 'styxosaurus,'" said Senior Paleontologist and curator Clint Boyd. "The broader group  they go in is 'plesiosaurus,' which is a little easier to say. So we went with that."

The pleisosaur is big.

"They're just over 50 feet long," Boyd said.

Think "Loch Ness monster" -- with a very long neck.

And that posed a bit of a space problem – the gallery doesn’t have 50 feet of open space.

"They were also rather stiff," Boyd said. "They couldn't move their necks, like a snake can. We didn't want to spiral it around."

So, the Historical Society staff came up with a solution.

"Let's put part of it up, so you can see it to scale," Boyd said. "And then put the rest of it into the wall in a mural."

That’s what you’ll see in the gallery – neck bones hanging from the ceiling, leading into a painted wall mural.

Boyd said the plesiosaur is a very important part of the ecosystem of this area millions of years ago.

"If we really want to give people an understanding of what a past life was like in North Dakota, we need to have all the animals living here at the time," Boyd said.

Some of the fossil neck bones came from the museum in Bowman.

Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public