Nichollssaura is an extinct genus of leptocleidid[1] plesiosaur from the Early Cretaceous Boreal Sea of North America. The type species is N. borealis, found in the early Albian age Clearwater Formation near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.[2] Nichollssaura fills an approximate 40-million-year gap in the fossil record of North American plesiosaurs.

Temporal range: Early Cretaceous, 110 Ma
Nichollssaura at the Royal Tyrrell Museum
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Superorder: Sauropterygia
Order: Plesiosauria
Clade: Leptocleidia
Family: Leptocleididae
Genus: Nichollssaura
Druckenmiller & Russell, 2009
N. borealis
Binomial name
Nichollssaura borealis
(Druckenmiller & Russell, 2008 [originally Nichollsia, preoccupied)

Nichollsia borealis Druckenmiller & Russell, 2008

Two Nichollssaura swimming in the Boreal Sea.

The type specimen was discovered in one of Syncrude Canada Ltd.'s open-pit oilsand mines near Fort McMurray, Alberta, in 1994. The fossil is on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, missing only the left forelimb and scapula, lost when the specimen was discovered accidentally by 100-ton electric shovel operators Greg Fisher and Lorne Cundal.[3]


The fossil, named after paleontological curator Dr. Betsy Nicholls, originally was named Nichollsia borealis[4] but Nichollsia was already in use (preoccupied) by a genus of isopods. Thus, the original authors proposed Nichollssaura as a replacement generic name in 2009.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Ketchum, H. F. & Benson, R. B. J. (2010). "Global interrelationships of Plesiosauria (Reptilia, Sauropterygia) and the pivotal role of taxon sampling in determining the outcome of phylogenetic analyses". Biological Reviews. 85 (2): 361–392. doi:10.1111/j.1469-185X.2009.00107.x. PMID 20002391.
  2. ^ Henderson, D. (2013). "A one-in-a-billion dinosaur find". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-11-21.
  3. ^ "PALAEOBLOG".
  4. ^ Druckenmiller, P.S.; Russell, A.P. (2008). "Skeletal anatomy of an exceptionally complete specimen of a new genus of plesiosaur from the Early Cretaceous (Early Albian) of northeastern Alberta, Canada". Palaeontographica Abteilung A. 283: 1–33.
  5. ^ Druckenmiller, Patrick S.; Russell, Anthony P. (2009). "The new plesiosaurian genus Nichollssaura from Alberta, Canada: replacement name for the preoccupied genus Nichollsia". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 29 (1): 276. doi:10.1080/02724634.2009.10010379.

External linksEdit